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Birth of a Solar System 
Solve Binary Stars 
Apollo Misquotes 
The Herschel Project 

Monthly Audio 
Sky Tour 


Sky at a Glance 

Image by 
Randy Shivak 

Shop @ Sky 




Observing Highlights 



► July 30 -August 5, 
Don't take the 
Sun for granted! 

► August 6 -12 
The Perseid 
meteor shower 

► August 13 - 19 
The heart of 
the Milky Way 

► August 20 - 26, 
Delphinus and 

► Aug. 27 -Sept. 2, 
Earth, Moon, 
Pluto, and Charon 

Signup for Newsletter, Astroalert, Facebook, Twitter 

Turn the page or , 

v click here® for instructions 

Must See ! August's Great Meteor Shower 


New Product 


p. 38 


AUGUST 2012 

Will LkCa 1 5 Become Our Twin? P . 20 


Free with a current print subscription p. 37 


Launches P7 2 

Solve Bin 
Star Mysteries 
Yourself P . 32 

"Houston, we hav? a problem," 
and other misquotes p.26 

Projects 60 





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August 2 012 

On the cover: 
Artist Casey 
Reed portrays 
the imaged 
giant planet 
orbiting the 
young Sun-like 
star LkCa 15. 


20 Pictures of a 

Baby Solar System 

Astronomers have found a young 
version of the Sun surrounded 
by a solar system analog in the 
making. By Thayne M. Currie 
& Carol A. Grady 

26 Houston, We Have a Problem 

Sometimes the most famous words 

are those never spoken. By Dave English 

32 Solve Binary Stars Yourself 

PHOEBE builds you a bridge 
between binary star observations 
and sophisticated computer analysis. 
By Dirk Terrell 

38 NEAF2012 

This astronomical extravaganza in 
Suffern, New York, is an annual rite 
of spring for amateur astronomers in 
the Northeast. By Dennis di Cicco 
& Sean Walker 

60 The Herschel Project 

A veteran deep-sky observer success- 
fully completed the challenge of 
observing every object in the 
Herschel Catalog. By Rod Mollise 

66 Restoring a Gem of the Clarks 

After decades of troubles, a priceless 
refractor lives anew. By Francis J. O'Reilly 

72 Shooting Rocket Launches 

With a little foresight, capturing that 
Kodak moment of liftoff is easy and 
rewarding. By Christopher Hetlage 

VOL 124, NO. 2 


43 In This Section 

44 August's Sky at a Glance 

45 Binocular Highlight 

By Gary Seronik 

46 Planetary Almanac 

47 Northern Hemisphere's Sky 

By Fred Schaaf 

48 Sun, Moon & Planets 

By Fred Schaaf 

50 Celestial Calendar 

By Alan MacRohert 

54 Exploring the Moon 

By Charles Wood 

56 Deep-Sky Wonders 

By Sue French 


6 Spectrum 

By Robert Naeye 

8 Letters 

10 75» 5° & 25 Years Ago 

By Roger W. Sinnott 

12 News Notes 

70 Telescope Workshop 

By Gary Seronik 

76 Gallery 

86 Focal Point 

By Mark Mathosian 

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Who Will Lead the Way? 

MY S&T COLLEAGUES and I spend a lot of time thinking and 
writing about exploration going up — into space. But earlier this year 
the office was abuzz with discussion about exploration going down after 
we read reports that filmmaker James Cameron successfully dove to 
the Challenger Deep. We were particularly eager to hear news of what 
kind of life might be able to survive the crushing pressure nearly 11 
kilometers (6.8 miles) below sea level. Kudos to Cameron for not only 
undertaking such a risky venture, but also for spending millions of 
dollars of his own money for exploration and research. 

I wonder if this is the wave of the future for ocean exploration and 
even space exploration. Inexplicably, the White House submitted a 
budget to Congress earlier this year that would whack 20% out of 
NASA's planetary-science budget, with the greatest amount of hurt 
falling on the Mars program. Even though it looks like Congress will 
restore most of that funding, the proposed cuts forced NASA to cease 
cooperation with the European Space Agency on a future Mars rover. 
And with the overall planetary-science cuts, it's difficult to predict when 
we might see a new flagship mission to Jupiter or Saturn to explore the 
potential of their icy moons to support life. 

It's baffling that NASA's Mars program is being "punished" for the 
excesses of the James Webb Space Telescope. Cutting back on Mars 
exploration right now, just as Curiosity is approaching the Red Planet, 
represents a giant leap backward for American leadership in space. And 
NASA won't be able to launch humans into space for at least five years. 
Sure, the U.S. has a $15.8 trillion national debt (slightly greater than its 
annual GDP), and certain space-science missions have had cost overruns, 
but this is only part of the problem. NASA seems to be in a state of 
disarray, not because it lacks brilliant scientists and engineers, but 
because it's not receiving clear direction from the President or Congress. 

With NASA in the doldrums, we're seeing encouraging signs that 
private business is picking up some of the slack. Besides Cameron, 
wealthy entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Eric Schmidt are 
funding deep-sea submersibles and space- exploration projects. Just as 
this issue was going to press in late May, the private company SpaceX 
launched a cargo vehicle to resupply the International Space Station. 
Various organizations are vying for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize 
to land a privately funded robot on the Moon. And as the news story 
on page 18 explains, a company financed in part by software executive 
Charles Simonyi has been formed to mine asteroids for precious metals. 
We're a long way from such a mission actually flying, but perhaps 
visionary entrepreneurs such as Cameron, Branson, Schmidt, and 
Simonyi can help lead the way to an exciting future in space. 

f$trfacf /Va&f- — - 

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6 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

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-& Letters 

Revisiting the Titanic 

Your Titanic article in the April issue 
(page 34) was absolutely fascinating. I 
was particularly moved by the words of 
rescued passenger Lawrence Beesley, and 
was curious to learn if his observations 
were accurate. 

So, I used the freeware program 
Stellarium to set up an observing site at 
Titanic's approximate collision location 
(41.75° north, 49.9° west), and set the date to 
April 14, 1912. It turns out that at 11:40 p.m. 
(the time of the collision) Mars was just 
setting, and Jupiter had already risen in the 
east, along with the Milky Way. By the time 
of the sinking, three hours later (after the 
ship's electric lights were extinguished), a 
glorious Milky Way was clearly visible in 
the moonless southern sky. This explains 
Beesley's comment, "in places there 
seemed almost more dazzling points of 
light set in the black sky than background 
of sky itself." 

Beesley's description of the Moon is 
dead-on, for "the thinnest, palest of moons" 
was indeed rising, right alongside Venus, 
"with the crescent turned to the north, and 
the lower horn just touching the horizon." 
If his latter observation about the Moon's 
"lower horn" is accurate, then I conclude 
that Beesley made this observation 40 min- 
utes before sunrise on April 15th. 

Thanks to S&T and the Stellarium 
software, I almost felt like I was sharing 
a lifeboat with Lawrence Beesley on that 
terrible night, 100 years ago. We truly live 
in a magical age. 
Tom Sales 
Somerset, New Jersey 

The sensationalist article "Did the Moon 
Sink the Titanic?" in the April issue was 
extremely disappointing. The article 
gives the impression that the iceberg and 
the large field that it belonged to were a 

Write to Letters to the Editor, Sky & Telescope, 

90 Sherman St., Cambridge, MA 02140-3264, 

or send e-mail to 

Please limit your comments to 250 words. 

singularly extraordinary event. But while 
the field may have been larger than usual 
for the time and latitude, 1) it wasn't some 
once-in-a-millenium-type event, and much 
more importantly, 2) multiple combined 
human errors led to the collision, sinking, 
and loss of life, not least of which was that 
Captain Smith either wholly neglected to 
plot or deliberately ignored the multi-mile- 
wide ice field directly across the ship's 
path. These are well discussed in Walter 
Lord's classic book A Night to Remember. 
The perigean tides' effect on the number 
of icebergs really was incidental. 

Had the article been written from the 
perspective of, "Okay, so a combination of 
human errors caused the Titanic tragedy. 
What astronomical factors could have 
helped prevent or ameliorate it had they 
been different?", it would have been a lot 
stronger. The lack of moonlight to illumi- 
nate the berg would have dominated, but 
the perigean tides could then have been 
included as one exacerbating event. 
Art Samplaski 
Ithaca, New York 

Horn Antenna's Makeover 

After reading a letter in S&T about the 
sorry state of the Horn Antenna in New 
Jersey used to discover the cosmic micro- 
wave background (S&T: October 2010, 
page 8), I made it a personal goal to check 
out the antenna myself. I finally made it 
this past April. Thanks to Google Earth, 
I easily found the antenna just where the 

previous letter-writer said it was: atop a 
steep hill with various other buildings in 
an Alcatel-Lucent office complex. 

I walked up and around and am happy 
to report that the condition seems pretty 
good for the instrument's age. There is 
very little rust, and it looks like parts of 
the antenna have been repainted. Three 
plaques detail the antenna's importance 
in the discovery of the microwave back- 
ground. Being in the presence of such his- 
tory was greatly exciting for me. Sadly, few 
people know its history, and fewer still go 
see it. Considering how close it is to New 
York City, more people should try to visit. 

Helder Jacinto 

via e-mail 

Eyepiece Heavyweights 

In his April review of the 120° Explore Sci- 
entific eyepiece (page 64), Dennis di Cicco 
noted that the eyepiece is the heaviest and 
most expensive mass-marketed astronomi- 
cal eyepiece in existence. However, the 
Rodenstock 40-mm, Meade Series 5000 
30-mm, and Celestron Axiom LX 31-mm 
are all heavier than the 120° ES eyepiece. 
In addition, Nikon's NAV-HW 100° eye- 
pieces are more expensive. So, while the 
ES eyepiece breaks new ground in appar- 
ent field, it does not in weight or price. 

Don Pensack 

Los Angeles, California 

Author's Note: Several readers wrote in to 
alert us that the mass-marketed Celestron 

8 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 


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| Letters 

and Meade eyepieces mentioned by Mr. 
Pensack are a few ounces heavier than the 
Explore Scientific 120° eyepiece. We're glad 
to see our readers are as sharp-eyed as ever. 
Regarding the very heavy 40-mm eyepiece 
made hy the German firm Rodenstock, the 
eyepiece is for military binoculars, but has 
an after-market retrofit for 2-inch telescope 
focusers and therefore doesn't fall into the 
"mass-marketed" category of astronomi- 
cal eyepieces. Several Nikon 100° telescope 
eyepieces are available in Japan with street 
prices around $1,200. While this price 
exceeds the ES 120° 's current $999.95 cost, 
ES's list price is $1,499.95, and is therefore 
still the record-holder — as far as I know. 

Comet Colors FYI 

There's a growing misconception about 
comets that I'd like to bring to your read- 

75, 50 & 25 Years Ago 

August 1937 

Known Minor Planets 

"Up to November, 1936, 
there were 1380 asteroids 
whose . . . [orbits] were 
well enough known to 
[be officially numbered 
by] the Astronomisches 
Rechen-lnstitut. . . . 

"[Armin O.] Leus- 
chnerofthe University 

of California is one of the world authorities on 
this subject. . . . Concerning the total number 
of these spheroids in existence, it is the opinion 
of Professor Leuschner that there are probably 
about 50,000 of them! Now this is rather a new 
idea, even for many astronomers. 

Today roughly 330,000 asteroids have accu- 
rately known orbits, a tally that increased by 
50,000 in the past year alone. No end is in sight. 

August 1962 

TV via Space "If some 
day soon you watch on 
your home television a 
'live' program from Bali 
or some other remote 
land, you can thank a 
small pioneer satel- 
lite that this summer 
began circling the earth. 
Built by Bell Telephone 

ers' attention, namely that their green color 
is due to cyanogen. Although cyanogen 
can be in comets, its dominant emission 
is outside the visible (in the UV below 400 
nm); comets' green glow is due primarily 
to molecular carbon (C 2 ). Somehow, the 
fact that many comets are green, and that 
comets often contain cyanogen, was con- 
flated to "Comets are green because they 
contain cyanogen." It's unclear how this 
misconception started, but the internet is 
spreading it rapidly, with several reputable 
websites repeating the error. 

This serves as a reminder to us all to 
check our sources and, particularly, their 
sources. Without a direct link to a primary 
source, preferably a peer- reviewed journal 
article, the information might be suspect. 
Frank Suits 
Garrison, New York 

Roger W. Sinnott 

Laboratories, Telstar is essentially a broad-band 
microwave relay station whose great altitude 
enables it to transmit over very long distances, 
whereas its earthbound counterparts are lim- 
ited by the curvature of the globe. ... [A] system 
of similar satellites could provide a world-wide 
communications system." 

Telstar few in low-Earth orbit, but it was a 
big step toward realizing Arthur C. Clarke's 1945 
vision of a network of communications satellites 
in higher, geostationary 

August 1987 

Other Jupiters? "Cana- 
dian astronomers may 
have detected bodies 
with masses no more 
than 8 or 10 times that 
of Jupiter — planets, 
perhaps — orbiting seven nearby stars. Bruce 
Campbell (Dominion Astrophysical Observa- 
tory) and colleagues found two 'probable' and 
five 'possible' candidates among 16 stars they 
observed from 1981 to 1987. The nearby stars 
showed variable Doppler shifts that may be due 
to the gravitational effects of small companions. 
Epsilon Eridani and Gamma Cephei are the two 
best candidates." 

Jupiter-mass exoplanets were ultimately found 
around Epsilon Eri and Gamma Cep, although the 
Campbell team's data were inconclusive. 

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BLACK HOLES I Leviathan Peels Star Before Eating 

This frame from a computer simulation follows gas from a tidally shredded star 
(orange material). Half the gas falls into a black hole (tiny black dot inside the 
accreting cloud), while the other half is flung away at high speed (long stream). 


A closely-studied flare from a super- 
massive black hole in a distant galaxy has 
revealed not only that the beast ate a star 
but also the type of star it tore apart and 
swallowed, an international team reported 
in the May 10th Nature. 

Astronomers have already seen super- 
massive black holes devour a few other 
stars. Two of these events were reported 
last year, which were found thanks to rela- 
tivistic jets that shot out as the black holes 
scarfed down the shredded material. But 
the new incident is the first to reveal what 
kind of star met this unpleasant fate. 

The team spotted the flare in visible 
light data recorded in May 2010 by Pan- 
STARRS 1, a 1.8-meter scope on Mount 
Haleakala in Hawaii. The project is 
among the first of the coming generation 
of fast, deep, wide-field sky-monitoring 
surveys. A month later, the Galaxy Evolu- 
tion Explorer (GALEX) satellite (April 
issue, page 20) discovered the flare inde- 
pendently in ultraviolet light. The flare 

was so bright that observers had to wait a 
year for it to fade enough so they could see 
the host galaxy and measure its redshift 
and distance (about 2.7 billion light-years), 
says study coauthor Suvi Gezari (Johns 
Hopkins University). 

The flare was at least as powerful as 
a supernova, but its behavior didn't jibe 
with a stellar explosion. Instead, the 
flare's rise and decay times matched those 
predicted by models of a black hole con- 
suming a star. Such an event doesn't hap- 
pen all at once. As the star draws nearer, 
the black hole's tidal force stretches the 
star into a banana-like shape. When the 
star finally comes too close, it's ripped 
apart. Half of the disrupted star's mate- 
rial is chucked out at high velocity, while 
the other half gathers into an accretion 
disk and spirals into the black hole. It's 
this accreting material that produces the 
radiation seen as a flare. 

Spectroscopic observations of the 
ejected debris, made with the 6.5-meter 

MMT in Arizona, showed ionized helium 
emission but no sign of hydrogen — odd 
for a star, which is normally mostly hydro- 
gen. But if an aged red giant had been 
stripped of its hydrogen envelope on an 
earlier swing-by, reducing it to its helium- 
rich core, the star's death would match the 

Such a two-step scenario is just what 
theorists expected. A star that dies from 
being shredded by a supermassive black 
hole probably makes many earlier, wider 
loops around the leviathan, edging closer 
until it's ultimately devoured. A red giant's 
hydrogen envelope is typically more than a 
thousand times larger than its tiny, white- 
dwarf-like helium core, and this fluffy 
envelope would be more easily stripped off 
during an earlier pass than a ripe peach is 
torn off its pit. 

To read astronomy news as it breaks, 

12 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 


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News Notes 

COSMOLOGY I Dark Energy BOSSes Around the Universe 

A new detailed map of cosmic struc- 
ture created from the Baryon Oscillation 
Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) is helping 
astronomers home in on the nature of 
dark energy with high precision. 

"Dark energy" is a generic term for 
whatever repulsive force is making the 
expansion of the universe speed up. This 
mysterious force began to overpower grav- 
ity on the largest cosmic scales about 6 
billion years ago. At that point, the matter 
in the expanding universe had thinned 
out enough that the gravitational pull of 
everything on everything else became too 
weak to counteract the unknown repulsive 
energy making space expand. The uni- 
verse's expansion stopped slowing down 
and started to accelerate. 

BOSS studies the universe's history by 
mapping the gigantic, cobwebby struc- 
tures traced out by hundreds of thou- 
sands of galaxies. Way back in the hot, 
primordial- soup days after the Big Bang, 
before photons and matter decoupled at a 

cosmic age of 380,000 years, huge acoustic 
waves rang through the universe, sloshing 
matter into higher- density and lower- 
density regions. As the universe expanded 
and cooled and the earliest galaxies 
formed, the imprint of those pressure 
waves remained, recorded in the galaxies' 
stringy arrangements. This imprint, as 
seen at later and later eras of the uni- 
verse, acts as a sort of standard ruler — a 
measuring stick with which astronomers 
can see how the universe had expanded at 
different ages. 

BOSS astronomers presented prelimi- 
nary high-precision results this spring at 
the National Astronomy Meeting in Man- 
chester, England. They concluded that 
dark energy makes up between 70.7 and 
73.1% (at a 68% confidence level) of the 
universe's matter-and- energy tally. This is 
right in line with previous determinations 
but adds new precision. 

They also confirmed that dark energy 
appears to be unchanging over time, 

with a degree of precision (+ 7% in dark 
energy's "equation of state," or w, which 
quantifies its pressure and density) 
slightly better than previous findings. 

The new results argue against throw- 
ing dark energy or dark matter out the 
window in favor of a modified theory of 
gravity on large scales, Beth Reid (Law- 
rence Berkeley National Laboratory) and 
her colleagues showed. Reid's team tested 
for a breakdown of Einstein's general 
theory of relativity by examining the 
growth of large-scale structure patterns 
in the BOSS survey. Unmodified gen- 
eral relativity predicts how fast galaxies 
should fall toward one another to create 
these structures. So the team measured 
the individual velocities of hundreds of 
thousands of galaxies and found that they 
were falling exactly as described by gravity 
as we know it, even on enormous scales. 

It appears that dark matter and dark 
energy are both here to stay. 

This illustration 
portrays baryon 
(white rings), the 
sound waves that 
rippled through 
the early universe. 
The signature 
of these waves 
remains imprinted 
on the cobweb- 
like structure 
of galaxies that 
formed much 
later, shown here 
at 5.5 billion 
years ago (center) 
and 3.8 billion 
years ago (right). 
The changing 
structure at 
different times 
tells how fast the 
universe had been 
expanding up to 
those points in 
cosmic history. 

14 August 2 012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

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News Notes 

GALAXIES I Colorful Cluster Transformation 

This near-infrared map reveals remote concentrations of matter not visible in optical light. 
Units are standard deviations above the mean density, and individual dots are galaxies. 
Astronomers suspect the overdensities labeled A and B together mark an earl/ galaxy cluster. 
The overdensity marked C is less stark compared to its surroundings. 

Astronomers have used a powerful 
infrared imaging camera called FourStar 
to discover what may be the oldest galaxy 
cluster observed that is making the 
transition from lively star formation to a 
more sedate existence. 

These results are the first from the 
FourStar Galaxy Evolution Survey, an 
effort using the 6. 5 -meter Magellan 
Baade Telescope in Chile to observe 
galaxies at redshifts greater than 1, from 
the universe's first 6 billion years. The 
potential cluster is a set of 29 galaxies 
in a region 800,000 light-years across, 
shining from just over 3 billion years 
after the Big Bang, the team reported in 
the April 1st Astrophysical Journal Let- 
ters. Researchers think that rich groups 
in today's universe, such as the Coma 
Cluster in Coma Berenices, must have 
resembled this galactic huddle early on. 

The compact grouping not only 
includes middle-aged "red" galaxies, 
those glowing with older, redder stars, 
but it also has a dash of "blue" galaxies 
still churning out lots of hot, massive 
stars that burn through their fuel fast. 

This blue-red combination suggests 
the cluster's member galaxies are end- 
ing their eras of active star formation. 
Different clusters hit this transition at 
different times, probably when their 
galaxies run out of cool, star- forming 
gas. Astronomers don't really under- 
stand when and why cluster galaxies 
run out of this material, especially 
compared to their counterparts in less- 
dense environments, such as the Milky 
Way. Finding such an early cluster that 
is undergoing the transition could help 
detect what triggers the change. 

High-Energy Cosmic 
Rays Still a Mystery 

New results out of Antarctica contradict 
the idea that the most energetic atomic par- 
ticles hitting Earth's atmosphere come from 
gamma-ray bursts. This conclusion, reported 
in the April 19th Nature, perpetuates the mys- 
tery of what is to blame for accelerating these 
impossible-seeming particles. 

Cosmic rays are high-speed particles (usu- 
ally protons) that appear to strike Earth from all 
directions. The lower-energy ones are probably 
accelerated within our galaxy, such as by mag- 
netic winds in young star clusters (March issue, 
page 12). But at the extreme upper end of the 
scale, "ultra-high-energy cosmic rays" (UHECRs) 
probably come from outside the Milky Way. 
These are single atomic particles that can carry 
as much kinetic energy as a pitched baseball. 
Active galactic nuclei used to be the prime can- 
didates for their source (S&T: March 2008, page 
24), but that theory has been weakened by recent 
data that show the particles come from, on aver- 
age, no place in particular. 

One proposed source has been gamma-ray 
bursts, or GRBs, flashes of high-energy photons 
that mark the collapse of a very massive stellar 
core or the merger of two neutron stars. A GRB 
might be able to spawn ultra-high-energy parti- 
cles. If so, some of them should immediately pro- 
duce a burst of neutrinos also heading our way. 

The IceCube neutrino detector in Antarctica 
has been looking for these neutrinos, but the 
team reports that it finds no correlation of neu- 
trino detections with the times and directions 
of 300 known gamma-ray bursts. The team 
expected to see 8 or 9 such matches over the 
course of two years if the theory was right. 

GRBs were already a doubtful UHECR source: 
several researchers think it's unlikely that GRBs 
can produce such super-high-energy particles. 
But with GRBs and AGNs called into question, 
the baseball-energy particles remain a mystery. 

l6 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 



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News Notes 

SCOPES I New Eye in Store for Russian Heavyweight 

Opticians are working to remake a 
flawed 42-ton slab of glass into a first-rate 
primary mirror for the 6 -meter Bolshoi 
Teleskop Azimutal'ny (Large Altazimuth 
Telescope) on Russia's Mount Pastukhov. 
From 1975 until the completion of the 
Keck I telescope in 1993, the BTA was 
the world's largest optical telescope (S&T: 

June 1992, page 626). The instrument was 
intended to dethrone Palomar's 200-inch 
(5-meter) Hale Telescope. 

But being biggest never made the BTA 
best. Poor atmospheric seeing, change- 
able weather, and bad temperature control 
hampered the instrument's optical per- 
formance. Added to that was the abysmal 

Opticians prepare to remove the topmost 8 mm of glass — and with it a host of imperfections - 
from the original 6-meter primary mirror for Russia's Bolshoi Teleskop AzimutaPny. 

quality of the telescope's original optics: 
the first primary blank was unusable, and 
the second had to have sections blocked 
out with black cloth. The third primary 
mirror — installed in 1978 and used since 
■ was good, but its surface has degraded 
from multiple washings with alkali-based 
solvents, which were used prior to apply- 
ing a fresh coating of aluminum. 

With budget and observing- schedule 
constraints, the only option was to refur- 
bish the original mirror. Engineers have 
pulled it out of storage and used a mill- 
ing machine to remove 8 mm (0.3 inch) 
of glass (weighing more than a half ton) 
from the upper surface, taking the defects 
with it. Now it's a matter of refiguring and 
repolishing the mirror to create a clean 
parabolic surface. The refurbished pri- 
mary is scheduled to return to the observa- 
tory in mid-2013, when it will be coated 
with aluminum and swapped in for the 
existing mirror. Perhaps then the "Cyclops 
of the Caucasus" will take its rightful place 
among the world's greatest telescopes. + 


ASTEROIDS I Mining for Fun and Profit 

A recently formed company called Plan- 
etary Resources has announced ambitious 
plans to extract billions of dollars' worth of 
precious metals, along with water for space 
travelers, from near- Earth asteroids. The com- 
pany predicts no financial return in the fore- 
seeable future; the venture is an exploratory 
one to develop technology for a time when it 
may become practical. 

Asteroid mining isn't a new idea. The first 
speculations started about a century ago, and 
in 1996 John S. Lewis, a planetary astronomer 
at the University of Arizona, made the case 
for asteroid prospecting in his book Mining 
the Sky. Recently, a team of scientists and 
engineers unveiled a plan to capture a small 
near-Earth asteroid and bring it into high lunar 
orbit for study and exploitation. 

Two factors that prior schemes were miss- 

ing give the Planetary Resources plan c 
ibility: a space-savvy management tean 
wealthy investors willing to fund it. The t 
includes planetary scientists, Mars rover en 
neers, and Lewis himself. One of the inv 
tors is software executive and space tou 
Charles Simonyi. 

"This wouldn't be an appropriate inve 
ment for NASA," Simonyi said during the 
company's press conference. "This is where 
private enterprise comes in. Private investors 
can take the risk." 

Plans call for a three-phase approach span- 
ning about a decade. First, a series of small 
orbiting telescopes would find and track 
thousands of NEOs. Second, clusters of satel- 
lite probes would rendezvous with promising 
targets and assess their resource potential. 
Third, robotic miners would land and start 

If a bold commercial plan succeeds, about 
a decade from now a robotic spacecraft 
could capture a primitive chondritic asteroid 
and extract its water to fuel future space 
industries — and travelers. 

orbiting telescopes — dubbed Arkyd 101 — is 
under construction and should be launched 
within two years. 

Read the plan to capture asteroids and bring 
them into lunar orbit: 

l8 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

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Astronomers have found a young version 
of the Sun surrounded hy a solar system 
analog in the making. 


What did our solar 
system look like in 
its infancy, ... 

. . . when the planets were forming? We cannot travel 
back in time to take an image of the early solar system, 
but in principle we can have the next best thing: images 
of infant planetary systems around Sun-like stars with 
ages of 1 to 5 million years, the time we think it took for 
the giant planets to form. 

Infant exoplanetary systems are critically important 
because they can help us understand how our solar system 
fits within the context of planet formation in general. More 
than 80% of stars are born with gas- and dust-rich disks, 
and thus have the potential to form planets. Through 
many methods we have identified more than 760 planetary 
systems around middle-aged stars like the Sun, but many 
of these have architectures that look nothing like our solar 
system. Young planetary systems are important missing 
links between various endpoints and may help us under- 
stand how and when these differences emerge. 

Well-known star- forming regions in Taurus, Scorpius, 
and Orion contain stars that could have infant planetary 
systems. But these stars are much more distant than our 
nearest neighbors such as Alpha Centauri or Sirius, mak- 
ing it extremely challenging to produce clear images of 
systems that can reveal signs of recent planet formation, 
let alone reveal the planets themselves. 

Recently, a star with the unassuming name LkCa 15 
(spoken as "Lick calcium 15") may have given us our first 
detailed "baby picture" of a young planetary system simi- 
lar to our solar system. Located about 450 light-years away 
in the Taurus star-forming region, LkCa 15 has a mass 
comparable to the Sun (0.97 solar mass) and an age of 1 to 
5 million years, comparable to the time at which Saturn 
and perhaps Jupiter formed. The star is surrounded by a 

BABY SOLAR SYSTEM Left: Artist Casey Reed portrays the 
LkCa 15 system. The 1- to 5-million-year-old star is nearly identical 
in mass to the Sun and has at least one planet (foreground) com- 
parable to Jupiter. The disk around the star has sufficient material 
to produce a planetary system similar to our solar system. 

YOUNG SUN Right: These pictures show how to find 
magnitude-12 LkCa 15 in Taurus at R.A. 04 h 39 m 18 s , declination 
+22° 2V 03". It lies directly south of a magnitude-11 star. The star 
name comes from a 1980s Lick Observatory calcium-line survey. August 2012 21 

Exoplanet Imaged 


") 3 


CARVING A GAP These frames from a computer simulation show how three 
planets (with 3 Jupiter masses each) orbiting inside a disk carve out gaps that 
overlap over a period of 26,667 years, creating a gap with a radius of about 15 a.u. 
The planets orbit the star at distances of 2.7, 6.3, and 14.3 a.u., respectively. 

SPECTRUM This plot 
shows how LkCa 15's 
brightness changes from 
visible (0.5 to 0.8 micron) 
to infrared (0.8 to 100 
microns) to submillime- 
ter wavelengths (100 
to 1,000 microns). The 
dashed green line shows 
what this plot would look 
like if the disk didn't have 
a large gap. The dashed 
blue line shows what the 
spectrum would look like 
if there were no disk. 

image from the I RAM 
Plateau de Bure Inter- 
ferometer in France 
clearly resolves the 
disk around LkCa 15. 
The bright orangish- 
red regions are about 
50 astronomical units 
from the star. If the disk 
didn't have a large gap, 
the inner regions would 
also appear bright 


22 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 


with authors 
hayne Currie and Carol Grady, visit 

gas-rich disk similar in structure to the one that formed 
the planets in our solar system. With new technologies 
and observing strategies, we have confirmed suspicions 
that LkCa 15's disk harbors a young planetary system. 

Signs of Planet Formation 

Astronomers have identified LkCa 15's disk as belonging 
to a special subset of circumstellar disks whose members 
are possibly in transition from a pre-planet-building phase 
to a post-planet-building system. Compared to typical 
disks, the one around LkCa 15 (and others like it) have less 
mid-infrared emission. The thermal (heat) emission from 
circumstellar disks comes from dust heated by the central 
star, so the regions lacking this emission appear to be large 
gaps where solid materials have either been removed from 
the system or incorporated into larger bodies. 

From the dust temperature data, models help us 
estimate where the dust is (and is not) located. When 
astronomers do such modeling, we discover that many 
of these disks either have cleared inner holes or large 
gaps separating hot material orbiting close to the star 
from cold material orbiting at much farther distances. In 
particular, studies from 2007 to 2009 led by Catherine 
Espaillat (Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) 
showed that LkCa 15's disk has an inner dust disk from 
0.1 a.u. (its outer radius is uncertain), and an outer disk 
that begins at 50 a.u. — a range that would encompass all 
of the solar system's planets and the inner Kuiper Belt. 

Theorists have predicted that young disks in the pro- 
cess of forming giant planets will have gaps resembling 
the one in LkCa 15. Massive planets affect disk structure 
by exerting a tidal torque on the surrounding material. 
If the planet is more massive than Saturn, the torque is 
strong enough to open a gap in the disk, which becomes 
depleted in gas and presumably dust. The more massive 
the planet, the larger the gap it opens in the disk. 

If left undisturbed, disk material will eventually spiral 
all the way in and accrete onto the star. Because planets 
less massive than Jupiter open small gaps, they don't 
affect how disk material accretes onto the star; the disk's 
inner regions remain well replenished from material spi- 
raling in from the outer disk. As a planet's mass increases 


massive planets such as LkCa 15b carve out gaps in disks, 
igularities in the disks exert a gravitational torque on the 
.« cause planets to migrate substantial distances inward 
or outward from where they formed, helping to explain why many exoplanetary 
systems have Jupiter-mass planets orbiting relatively close to their host stars. 

above Jupiter's, the planet intercepts more incoming gas, 
decoupling the inner disk from the outer disk and thus 
widening the gap. Objects more massive than 10 Jupiters, 
comparable to the most massive planets yet discovered, 
effectively shut off accretion onto the star, leaving a hole 
in the inner disk instead of a gap. A star with a low accre- 
tion rate that is surrounded by a disk with a gap (but not 
an inner hole) therefore provides the predicted telltale 
sign of an infant, actively growing Jupiter-mass planet. 

Imaging an Emerging System 

By 2009 it was clear that LkCa 15 exhibited strong cir- 
cumstantial evidence that it harbored a young planetary 
system. Submillimeter observations by Vincent Pietu 
(Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique, France) and, 
more recently, Sean Andrews (Center for Astrophysics) 
and Andrea Isella (Caltech), resolved the large gap in 
LkCa 15's disk. In addition, the star accretes gas at a low 
rate compared to other stars with similar disks. 

Despite these encouraging signs, confirming a young 
planetary system around LkCa 15 required much sharper 
images of the inner disk (50 a.u. and less) at wavelengths 
that could identify disk structure caused by unseen plan- 
ets while directly ruling out stellar or brown dwarf com- 

TELLTALE SIGNATURE Using adaptive optics, the 8-meter 
Subaru Telescope in Hawaii acquired this image of the disk 
around LkCa 15. The star itself has been masked out, but its 
location is marked with a white dot. The disk has a gap with a 
sharp edge, which is strong evidence for a planet. The center of 
the disk is slightly offset from the star, also indicating a planet. 

LkCa 15 disk / 

LkCa 15b 



50 a.u. N. 


11 a.u. 
(76 milliarcsec) 

i 1 X 

1 ' 

SMOKING GUN left: The disk around LkCa 15. Right: Using the 10-meter Keck 
II telescope and advanced imaging techniques, Adam Kraus and Michael Ireland 
resolved a streamer of gas and dust (red) around LkCa 15 swirling toward a mas- 
sive planet (blue) that's still forming. The planet lies about 10 a.u. from the star. 

panions. LkCa 15 had to be imaged with ground-based 
telescopes at near-infrared wavelengths, where the disk is 
bright, and with an angular resolution and contrast even 
better than what Hubble could provide. 

Two main obstacles stood in the way of revealing 
LkCa 15's planetary system in detail. First, atmospheric 
turbulence blurs images, preventing us from distinguish- 
ing between a star's light and a planet's light. Second, no 
telescope has perfect optics: imperfections on mirror sur- 
faces create slowly evolving, bright noise patterns known 
as speckles, which can mask the presence of planets. 
Fortunately, new adaptive- optics systems correct for atmo- 
spheric blurring. And even better, advanced methods of 
acquiring data and processing images can remove enough 
speckle noise to see a disk or planet surrounding a star. 

The 8.2-meter Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, coupled 
with a new camera designed to image planets and planet- 
forming disks, provided even more compelling evidence. 
A team led by Christian Thalmann (University of Amster- 
dam, the Netherlands) imaged the planet-forming region 
of LkCa 15's disk for the first time. The team resolved the 
inner edge of the disk gap at 50 a.u., finding it to have 
a sharp edge expected if a planet is sculpting the disk. 
More importantly, the group found, and Isella and his August 2012 23 

Imaging Young Exoplanets 

telescopes is challenging because atmo- 
spheric turbulence and residual noise sources 
(due to imperfect telescope optics) impede 
our ability to separate a star's bright light from 
a planet's feeble glow. To overcome these 
obstacles, astronomers use adaptive optics to 
correct for most of the atmospheric blurring 
and then advanced observing and image-pro- 
cessing techniques to remove residual noise. 
Astronomers have incorporated these tech- 
niques to image planets around Beta Pictoris 
and HR 8799, which lie at separations several 

telescope's diffraction limit. Another 
option, non-redundant masking (NRM) inter- 
ferometry, allows us to image very young and 
relatively bright planets at extremely small 
separations from the star (on the sky), at the 
telescope's diffraction limit. 

In NRM, astronomers place a mask in 
front of the camera, allowing light from the 
star (and any planet) to pass only through a 
series of small holes. Instead of an image, the 
camera records the interference patterns from 
light passing through the different holes. If the 
holes are spaced such that the baseline (the 

separation from any one hole to any other) 
never repeats, we can use sophisticated algo- 
rithms originally developed for interferom- 
eters to reconstruct an image of the system 
(without having "seen" it) where the spatial 
resolution of the image approaches the theo- 
retical (diffraction) limit. That's good enough 
to reveal the planet. In the case of LkCa 15b, 
Adam Kraus and Michael Ireland also took 
calibration images of other nearby stars to 
remove residual effects resulting from imper- 
fect image quality. 

Because light can pass through only a small 

team have confirmed, that the gap is slightly offset rela- 
tive to the star, strong evidence for an unseen companion. 
If a low-mass stellar or brown dwarf companion were 
responsible for this offset, Thalmann and his collabora- 
tors would have detected it, but they didn't. 

Last October, Adam Kraus (University of Hawaii) and 
Michael Ireland (Macquarie University, Australia) reported 
a direct detection of a planet in the disk gap of LkCa 15. 
Using the 10-meter Keck II telescope, Kraus and Ireland 
employed an additional technique known as NRM, short 
for non-redundant masking (NRM) interferometry (see 
"Imaging Young Exoplanets," above). NRM provides a way 
to separate the light from a star and extremely luminous 
planets at small separations. Kraus and Ireland initially 
detected the companion in 2009 at a tiny separation of 
about 75 milliarcseconds (a Saturn-like 10 a.u. at 450 
light-years distance) from the star. Observations in 2010 
detected the planet at roughly the same location. Because 
LkCa 15's space motion is known, they compared the 
companion's position to what it would be if it were an 
unrelated background object and concluded it's a gravita- 
tionally bound object consistent with being a planet. 

An Infant Planet 

Looking at the image of LkCa 15b, it's a bit hard to see 
the face of the planet it will become, because the infant 

images of planet-forming disks around 
young stars, taken with the Submillimeter 
Array interferometer, show clear signatures 
of large gaps inside the red areas, strong 
indicators of forming planets. In some 
cases, we see the disk from the side, which 
leads to double-peak structures that appear 

as tWO reddish regions, sean Andrews / cfa (3) 

planet's appearance stands in stark contrast to those of 
adolescent planets recently imaged around Beta Pictoris 
and HR 8799 (12 million years old and 30 million years 
old, respectively). These planets appear as unresolved 
point sources, but the emission identifying the planet 
around LkCa 15 appears as a slightly elongated blob, 
indicating that it originates from a region far larger than 
the diameter of a fully formed giant planet. Furthermore, 
the emission comes not from one structure but two: a 
centrally located blob clearly detected at 2 microns and a 
pair of lobes detected at 3.8 microns, located at roughly 
the same distance from the star as the central source but 
leading or trailing it in orbit. 

LkCa 15b's complex structure requires explanations 
beyond simply reflected light or thermal emission from a 
spherical, Jupiter-sized object. Kraus and Ireland interpret 
the lobes to be material falling along a streamline toward 
the central source, which presumably marks the planet 
itself. Thus, in further contrast to imaged planets around 
Beta Pictoris and HR 8799, we see LkCa 15's infant planet 
indirectly, since we're actually catching gas and dust heated 
as it falls toward a shrouded central object (the planet itself). 

The planet's odd appearance presents additional prob- 
lems in constraining its physical properties. For example, 
gas giants contract and cool in a way quantified by detailed 
planet- evolution models. Thus, the luminosities of planets 

24 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

number of holes, the effective light col- 
lecting area of a telescope in NRM mod- 
is much less than in normal imaging. 
Consequently, NRM can right now help 
us detect only the brightest exoplanets, 
and it has so far failed to provide image 
of the previously detected Beta Pic and 
HR 8799 planets, which are significantly 
fainter than LkCa 15b. But since plan- 
ets are brightest when they are newly 
formed, NRM is well suited for imaging 
1- to 5-million-year-old giants such as 
LkCa 15b. 


such as Beta Pictoris b and the four known HR 8799 com- 
panions can yield estimates for the objects' masses. Esti- 
mating LkCa 15b's mass from its luminosity is trickier, 
because the infant planet's age uncertainty (1 to 5 million 
years) translates into a much larger mass uncertainty than 
for Beta Pic b and the HR 8799 companions because plan- 
ets cool very rapidly right after their formation. 

More importantly, the light identifying the planet 
likely comes from more than just the planet itself; it prob- 
ably includes emission from accreting material. So even if 
we knew LkCa 15's age to high precision, it's very difficult 
to estimate the planet's luminosity and use this character- 
istic to estimate the planet's mass. But the total luminos- 
ity of the central source and the lobes is significantly 
less than the luminosity of young 10- to 20 -Jupiter-mass 
objects, so the planet's heft is probably less than 10 Jupiter 
masses. If the planet is responsible for the gap, which is 
likely, then disk models predict that its mass should be 
at least 1 Jupiter. The planet is thus likely comparable in 
mass to Jupiter or is a slightly scaled-up version of it. 

The First of Many Baby Pictures 

Although LkCa 15's disk and infant planet provide an 
important first picture of a baby solar system, we may 
not have identified all the massive planets in the system. 
Recent studies by Zhaohuan Zhu (Princeton University) 
and Sally Dodson-Robinson (University of Texas, Austin) 

Pupil mask with 
spaced holes 

To image LkCa 15b, Adam Kraus and Michael Ireland employed a relativel 
known as non-redundant masking (NRM) interferometry. In NRM, astronomers place a 
mask with holes in front of the camera. Starlight passing through the holes creates an 
interference pattern, which astronomers can then reconstruct into an image that can 
resolve a very dim object (such as a planet) very close to a bright star. 


indicate that the LkCa 15 disk gap is too large to be carved 
by just one giant planet. We have yet to image a second 
planet in the gap, but such a planet would further cement 
LkCa 15's status as a young solar system analog, because 
our own solar system has two gas giants. 

Even more encouraging, LkCa 15 is probably not the 
only newborn Sun-like star that harbors an infant planet 
that we can image. A number of researchers, including 
Catherine Espaillat and Kyoung Hee Kim (University of 
Rochester), have identified many nearby stars that are 
about the same age as LkCa 15 and that are also sur- 
rounded by disks that show signs of having large gaps 
consistent with forming planets. Submillimeter imaging 
by Sean Andrews (Center for Astrophysics) and David 
Wilner (University of Hawaii) shows that some of these 
disks have gaps extending from 10 to 50 a.u., encompass- 
ing the gas- and ice-giant planet regions in our solar 
system. They also exhibit structures that seem to indicate 
massive planets. 

A team lead by Nuria Huelamo (Centro de Astrobi- 
ologia, INTA-CSIC, Spain) using the Very Large Telescope 
in Chile may have already detected a low-mass object 
in the disk gap of another Sun-like star, T Chamaeleon: 
perhaps another young solar system analog. These new 
observations give us confidence that soon our single 
image of an emerging planetary system will be joined by 
pictures of many other systems, comprising a nursery 
of young solar system analogs that will better clarify our 
own solar system's evolution within the range of planet- 
formation sequences and outcomes. ♦ 

Thayne Currie is a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA's 
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 
Carol Grady is an astronomer working for Eureka Scientific 
at NASA Goddard. Both specialize in planet formation and 
circumstellar disks. August 2012 25 

Q. Misquotes in Astronomy 

Sometimes the most famous 
words are those never spoken 

A FEW WORDS can record profound ideas or memo- 
rable moments in history. Quotes such as, "Houston, we 
have a problem" or Carl Sagan's "billions and billions" 
resonate in our collective memory. But it turns out that 
our memory isn't always right. Some of history's most well 
known lines are misremembered, and quotations about 
astronomy are no exception. From Galileo to the Apollo 
missions, from Star Trek to Cosmos, I'll try to set the record 
straight on some of astronomy's most popular misquotes. 

Eppur Si Move 

One famously apocryphal story centers on Galileo Galilei, 
who recanted his heretical heliocentric theory before the 
inquisition in 1633. In one version, Galileo rises from his 
knees and mutters under his breath, "... and yet it moves." 
In Italian, it would have sounded like poetry: eppur si 
move. But there is no definitive evidence that Galileo 
uttered those dangerous words. The earliest biography of 
Galileo, written by his disciple Vincenzo Viviani, never 

26 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

mentions the phrase. Although the phrase appears in an 
approximately contemporary painting showing Galileo, 
it does not appear in print until over a century later. Only 
in 1757 did Giuseppe Baretti write in The Italian Library, 
"The moment he was set at liberty, he looked up at the 
sky and down to ground, and, stamping with his foot, in 
a contemplative mood, said, Eppur si move; that is, still 
it moves, meaning the earth." The story sounds perfect, 
restoring dignity to a battered old man, but Paolo Gal- 
luzzi, the director of the Galileo Museum in Florence, 
recently dismissed the story as a myth. And yet it persists. 

Second Star to the Right... 

If you think the source for the phrase "second star to the 
right, and straight on till morning" is the magical charac- 
ter Peter Pan, you are correct. "That, Peter had told Wendy, 
was the way to the Neverland; but even birds, carrying 
maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not 
have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just 
said anything that came into his head." 

But when James M. Barrie's Peter Pan debuted on the 
London stage in 1904, he said only, "second to the right, 
and straight on till morning" — with no mention of astro- 
nomical objects. The boy says the same line in the novel, 
published seven years after the play. 

The Walt Disney film added the "star" in 1953. 
The quote, or parts of it, have since popped up in 
many places, including the title of a biography of 
aviatrix Beryl Markham, a Blues Traveler album, 
and the 1991 movie Star Trek VP. The Undiscov- 
ered Country. It's there that Chekov asks "Course 
heading, Captain?" James T. Kirk replies, "Second 
star to the right, and straight on till morning." Like 
Peter Pan, the phrase now flies without its shadow. 

I Aim at the Stars... 

"I aim at the stars. But sometimes I hit London." This 
line is sometimes incorrectly attributed to Wernher von 
Braun, the principal designer of the Saturn V rocket that 
launched the Apollo missions. The first part — "I aim at 
the stars" — was the U.S. title of a 1960 biographical film 
about the life of von Braun. But it was Jewish- American 
comedian Mort Sahl who coined the movie's subtitle, a 
stinging reference to von Braun's World War II work on 
the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany. 

Earth is the Cradle of Humanity., 

Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky, the Russian 
astronautics pioneer who predicted 
human space exploration in both sci- 
ence fiction and engineering papers, 
wrote in a 1911 letter, "IIjiaHeTa ecTb 
KOJibi6ejib pa3yMa, ho Hejib3^ bchho 
)KHTb b KOJibi6ejiH." The phrase is 
almost always incorrectly translated 
as, "Earth is the cradle of human- 
ity, but one cannot live in a cradle 
forever." A more accurate rendering 
would read, "A planet is the cradle of 
mind, but one cannot live in a cradle 
forever." The latter translation better 
illustrates the breadth and universal- 
ity of Tsiolkovsky 's thinking — though 
he worked largely alone, he considered 
himself a citizen of the universe. 

Earth is the 
cradle of humanity, 
but one cannot liv 
cradle forever." 


The Russian rocket scientist predicted human 
space exploration in a phrase correctly trans- 
lated as, "A planet is the cradle of mind, but 
one cannot live in a cradle forever." 

V August 2012 27 

Misquotes in Astronomy 

That's One Small Step for [a] Man... 

On July 20, 1969, at 9:56 p.m. local Houston time, Neil 
Armstrong stepped off the Eagle lunar module and onto 
the powdery rock of the Moon's Mare Tranquillitatis. He 
was the first human to walk on another heavenly body. 
A record-breaking audience of some 600 million people 
listened as Armstrong spoke slowly and with solemnity 
the most famous words ever uttered in space: "That's one 
small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind." 

Or at least that's what he meant to say. One particularly 
short word became surprisingly controversial. The day 
after the Moon landing, The New York Times reported 
the line several times without the article "a," including 
on the front page and as the "Quotation of the Day." But 
Armstrong didn't realize his "a" was not heard until he 
returned to Earth. In the 1970 book First On The Moon 
(sold as the "exclusive and official account ... as seen 
by the men who experienced it"), the quote includes the 
article, with a footnote explaining, "Tape recorders are 
fallible." Indeed, lunar surface communications were 
voice-activated and sometimes subject to interference. The 
New York Times ran a short column about the "a" 11 days 
after the Moon landing on page 20: 

One small but important word was omitted in the official 
version of the historic utterance he made when he stepped on 
the moon n days ago. . . . The "a" apparently went unheard and 
unrecorded in the transmission because of static, a spokesman 
for the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston said in a 
telephone interview. Whatever the reason, inserting the omitted 
article makes a slight but significant change in the meaning of 
Mr. Armstrong's words. 

But according to Chariots for Apollo, a 1986 book about 
the making of the lunar module, Armstrong realized his 
mistake when the builders of the lunar module presented 
him with a plaque inscribed with 11, not 12, famous 
words. Upon hearing Armstrong's protest, they listened 
together to the commemorative MGM 45-rpm record, and 
the "a" was nowhere to be found. Armstrong reportedly 
sighed, "Damn, I really did it. I blew the first words on 
the Moon, didn't I?" 

If he didn't say it, no one would blame him. Arm- 
strong was an amazing test pilot and a highly skilled 
aerospace engineer who had been awake many hours by 
the time of the moonwalk. He was making history on live 
TV in the ultimate dangerous environment. He was not 
an actor used to reciting lines. Armstrong told journalists 
30 years after the Moon landing, "The 'a' was intended. I 
thought I said it. I can't hear it when I listen on the radio 
reception here on Earth, so I'll be happy if you just put it 
in parentheses." 

That would have been the end of the story, but the 
debate took another turn when The Times of London 
reported on October 2, 2006, that an Australian com- 
puter expert had rediscovered the missing article using 
high-tech audio analysis. Peter Shann Ford ran the NASA 
recording through sound- editing software and "clearly 
picked up an acoustic wave from the word 'a,' finding that 
Mr. Armstrong spoke it at a rate of 35 milliseconds — ten 
times too fast for it to be audible." Neil Armstrong issued 
a statement saying "I find the technology interesting and 
useful. I also find his conclusion persuasive." But other 
audio experts have disputed this analysis and it has not 

28 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

That's one 
small step for a 
man, one giant 
leap for mankind." 


The first man on the Moon grins with 
giddy excitement after returning to the 
Eagle from the lunar surface, where he 
spoke his famous words. 

been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. 

What do you think? You can listen to the recording 
online ( to refresh your 
memory. I think he said the "a," but the physical exertion, 
lack of sleep, and importance of the moment combined 
to rob Armstrong of his normally clear speaking voice. 
The way he naturally says the phrase makes the "a" soft, 
which was demonstrated on TV when the late political 

commentator Tim Russert politely ambushed Armstrong 
to repeat the phrase 30 years after Apollo 11. Even on that 
clean, professional recording, the "a," if it's there, is just 
not distinct. So [a] debate continues. And anytime the 
quote is published without Armstrong's parentheses, we 
miss a bit of history. 

Houston, We Have a Problem 

Another mangled quotation from the Apollo era has per- 
fectly clear tape recordings, yet it's still repeated errone- 
ously: "Houston, we have a problem." The Apollo 13 crew 
never said that phrase. At Mission Elapsed Time 55:55:20 
(9:07 p.m. local Houston time) on April 13, 1970, Apollo 
13 command module pilot John "Jack" Swigert, Jr. heard a 
large bang and felt a vibration when the No. 2 oxygen tank 
exploded. He radioed, "Okay, Houston, we've had a prob- 
lem here." Past tense. Had a problem. Jack Lousma, the 
on-duty Houston capsule communicator, quite reasonably 
replied, "This is Houston. Say again, please." To which 
mission commander James "Jim" Lovell answered, "Er, 
Houston, we've had a problem, [pause] We've had a main B 
bus undervolt." Past tense again. 

On the recordings it's clear, yet, as of late May, a Google 
search for the incorrect "Houston, we have a problem" (in 
quotes) yields over 1.37 million results, compared to only 
177,000 results for the correct version. It certainly doesn't 
help that the 1995 movie Apollo 13 uses the present-tense 
line, though the movie didn't invent it. Director Ron 
Howard aimed for a relatively accurate film, but he wasn't 
afraid to take artistic license. According to some sources, 
he chose the present tense version of the quote to convey 
the immediacy of the astronauts' situation. August 2012 29 

Misquotes in Astronomy 

Failure Is Not an Option 

The Apollo 13 movie is also responsible for another mis- 
quote: "Failure is not an option." There is no evidence that 
legendary Flight Director Gene Kranz ever said that line 
before the movie was released. The words were later used 
as the title of his 2000 book Failure Is Not an Option: Mis- 
sion Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond, where 
he wrote that this was "a creed that we all lived by . . . Fail- 
ure does not exist in the lexicon of a flight controller. The 
universal characteristic of a controller is that he will never 
give up until he has an answer or another option." Kranz 
used the phrase several other times in the book, but never 
directly claims it was his or that it was ever articulated as 
it's now known. 

So how did actor Ed Harris end up saying it in the 
film? It turns out that the scriptwriters, Al Reinert and 
William Broyles, Jr., invented the line to quickly condense 
and capture the overall culture of mission control. They 
interviewed Jerry Bostick, the Flight Dynamics Officer for 
Apollo 13, about the atmosphere in mission control. He told 
them, "When bad things happened, we just calmly laid out 

"Beam me up, 

Listen to APOLLO 

Listen to the original NASA recordings 
from Apollo 11, 12, and 13 and hear 
what the astronauts really said 


all the options, and failure was not one of them. We never 
panicked, and we never gave up on finding a solution." 
Months after the interview, Bostick learned that as soon as 
the scriptwriters got in their car, Broyles yelled, "That's it! 
That's the tag line for the whole movie, 'Failure is not an 
option/ Now we just have to figure out who to have say it." 

Beam Me Up, Scotty 

A celebrated TV series from the 1960s generated another 
space-related misquote: "Beam me up, Scotty." The phrase 
is commonly attributed to Star Trek's Captain Kirk, played 
by William Shatner, who is presumably asking chief 
engineer Montgomery "Scotty" Scott for teleportation 
back to the starship Enterprise. But the phrase was never 
uttered exactly as it is now quoted, even though it can 
be found everywhere from bumper stickers to T-shirts. 
Indeed, it's seemingly everywhere except for a single Star 
Trek screenplay. In the original Star Trek TV series "The 
Gamesters of Triskelion" and "The Savage," Captain Kirk 
did say "Scotty, beam us up," and other times he said 
"Enterprise, beam us up." In the self-referential movie Star 
Trek IV: The Voyage Home, we come closest with "Scotty, 

30 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

beam me up." The only place the exact phrase is ever spo- 
ken is in Shatner's audio adaptation of his novel Star Trek: 
The Ashes of Eden. 

Billions and Billions 

That's not the only famous line missing from hours and 
hours of videotape. Consider the final entry in this collec- 
tion of misquotes: astronomer Carl Sagan's "billions and 
billions." In his posthumous 1998 book Billions & Billions: 
Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium, 
Sagan wrote: 

I never said it. Honest. Oh, I said there are maybe 100 billion 
galaxies and 10 billion trillion stars. It's hard to talk about the 
Cosmos without using big numbers. I said "billion" many times 
on the Cosmos television series, which was seen by a great many 
people. But I never said "billions and billions." For one thing, 
it's too imprecise. How many billions are "billions and billions"? 
A few billion? Twenty billion? A hundred billion? "Billions and 
billions" is pretty vague. When we reconfigured and updated the 
series, I checked — and sure enough, I never said it. 

So where did it come from? The answer is found in a 
comedy skit. Johnny Carson, an amateur astronomer who 
hosted Sagan almost 30 times on The Tonight Show, used 
the line whenever he impersonated Sagan. "He'd dress 
up in a corduroy jacket, a turtleneck sweater, and some- 
thing like a mop for a wig," Sagan said. "Astonishingly, 
'billions and billions' stuck. People liked the sound of it." 
Carson's phrase captured both the vastness of the cos- 
mos and the essence of Sagan's vocal delivery. Although 
some people thought he emphasized "b" because he had 
a quirky accent or speech peculiarity, Sagan had care- 
fully considered the problem of verbally differentiating 
between millions and billions. He felt the alternative — 
saying "that's billions with a b" — was too cumbersome 
for popular TV. 

The Sagan case illustrates why we often prefer mis- 
quotes to the real thing. Johnny Carson's impression of 
"billions and billions" quickly distilled Sagan's style in 
an instantly recognizable way. Similarly, good caricatures 
appear to capture the essence of a person or idea, even 
though a closer look shows that the simple image distorts 

reality. A caricature can be 
more recognizable than a 
photograph because human 
brains are better at remem- 
bering distinctive features 
rather than small or fleet- 
ing differences. So it is with 
quotations, astronomy-related 
or otherwise, with some 
becoming distorted along the 
lines of an easy-to -remember 
caricature. Perhaps Sagan 
would have appreciated that 
"his" quote illustrates the 
curious nature of human 

If you've found other 
astronomy quotes that have 
been mangled or mashed, 
send them to dave@dave It's interesting 
to see how history is remem- 
bered, but it's also worthwhile 
to preserve the original lines. 
I don't know what the next 
great astronomical quotation 
will be, but let's hope with 
modern technology it will be 
recorded clearly! ♦ 

Dave English watches the night 
sky from his home in Phoenix, 
Arizona. Visit his website www. August 2012 31 

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32 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

ECLIPSING BINARY stars are rich sources of 
information on the intrinsic properties of stars. In the 
past several decades, amateur astronomers have played 
a crucial role in their study. The amateur contributions 
have been most visible in the observation of these systems 
using CCD cameras and modest-sized telescopes, because 
advances in software and hardware technologies have 
made it possible to undertake worthwhile observing proj- 
ects that are impractical for professionals such as myself 
to pursue at big-time observatories. 

For example, John Gross, Walt Cooney, and I recently 
completed a survey to measure the colors of hundreds of 
binaries belonging to the W Ursae Majoris class. Proj- 
ects such as this allow us to advance our understanding 
of these systems, and of stars in general. But what if 
you don't have a telescope and CCD camera to do your 
own photometry? Can you still contribute to research on 
binary stars without a telescope? Or, have you observed 
eclipsing binaries and wondered if there was more you 
could do with the data? Yes, there is a lot more that you 
can do, whether you're working with your own observa- 
tions or someone else's. What you need is PHOEBE. 

Birth of a Computational Titan 

PHOEBE, short for PHysics Of Eclipsing BinariEs, is 
a tightly integrated collection of software tools used to 
analyze observations of eclipsing binaries. It's free and 
available for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh operating 
systems at The website also has 
documentation and tutorials, as well as information on 
the various e-mail lists where you can communicate with 
the developers and other PHOEBE users. 

PHOEBE is built around the widely used Wilson- 
Devinney program (WD), originally developed in the 
early 1970s by Bob Wilson and Ed Devinney, then both at 
the University of South Florida. Continually developed by 
Wilson (now at the University of Florida) over the years, 
WD has developed into a sophisticated tool for analyzing 
light curves and other types of stellar observations such 
as radial velocities, X-ray-pulse arrival times, and polariza- 
tion curves. 

WD is a powerful analysis tool, but its interface with 
the user can intimidate those unfamiliar with it: it's a 
command-line program driven by a text input file, and its 
output is another text file. Seeing this situation, Andrej 
Prsa — then at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and 
now at Villanova University with Devinney — developed 
PHOEBE as a set of tools that basically sits on top of WD 
and makes the user's interaction much more straightfor- 
ward and efficient. 

PHOEBE consists of three parts: the library, the 
scripter, and the graphical user interface (GUI). 

As an end user, you don't have to worry much about 
the PHOEBE library, just as you don't have to know about 
the details of an automobile engine to drive a car. The 







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PHOEBE - Pitting 



DC mimmizer: done 1 iterations in 32.920000 seconds; cost function value: 1331.928396 


Parameter Initial value 

New value 



phocbtfl 1.313123 



ph«be_pshift 0.001441 



ph«be_Yga 35217756 



phacbfrjncl 82.679394 



pdMbejetrc 5474.353333 



ph«be_rm 0.377644 



ph«bfr_bla[I] 11.636700 

11 640455 


ph«be_hla[2| 11.540700 



phoebe_Ma[3( 11 317249 

11 31S0SS 



CCCii'i:! .•;■. 

Curve Number of point unweighted Intrinsic weight intrinsic + passband weights Fully weighi 

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PHOEBE has several interface windows (four shown, top to bottom) — the main 
window, where you do things such as specify your data and tweak parameters; the 
radial-velocity plot; the parameters window (you can change these yourself or set 
the program to change them for you); and the light-curve plot, which can include 
photometry taken in different wavelength bands. Each window gives you a differ- 
ent perspective on how your model fits the data. These data are for TT Herculis. August 2012 33 

Pro-Am Stellar Software 

PHOEBE scripter is for more advanced users wanting to 
do automated processing of binary star data. The GUI 
is where most new users will start. But before jumping 
into the use of PHOEBE, you have to understand how the 
process of analyzing data works. 

Modeling Binary Stars 

Observations are at the very core of the scientific process. 
They allow us to test our ideas about how things work in 
nature. For eclipsing binary stars, the two major types 
of observations are photometry, or measurements of the 
brightness of the binary, and radial velocities, measure- 
ments of how fast the binary's stars are moving along our 
line of sight. 

We make various assumptions about a binary system 
to create a model, and then we test that model's predic- 
tions against the observations. For example, a model of a 
binary system will include some assumptions about the 
shapes of the stars. A very simple model might assume 
that the stars are spherical, and in some binaries, that 
assumption is quite good. In others, it will be terrible. A 
slightly more complex model might assume that the stars 
are ellipsoids, making the model applicable to a wider 
variety of real binaries. A still more complex model would 
assume that the stars' shapes are based on the physics of 
gravity and rotation, as is done in the WD program. 

A useful model must make predictions that can be 
tested by observations. A binary star model might predict 
how the binary's brightness varies with time as the stars 
orbit each other as seen from Earth, a pattern known as 
the binary's light curve. It might also predict how fast 
the stars are moving along our line of sight as they orbit, 
movements that trace out radial-velocity curves. These 
predictions, called "observables," can then be compared 
with the observations to see how well they agree. If they 
agree, you can have some confidence that the model is a 
reasonably good approximation of the real binary. This 
process of fitting a model to observations is precisely what 
PHOEBE enables you to do. 

All models have parameters that can be adjusted to 
produce changes in the observables. For instance, in 
the simple model where the two stars are spheres, the 
individual radii of the stars are parameters. (In more 
complex models, like WD, the radii are computed from 
another parameter that is sensitive to distortions in the 
stars' shapes.) If we are modeling a binary light curve, we 
can change the values of the radii to make the predicted 
eclipses longer or shorter. 

Another parameter is the inclination of the orbit, the 
tilt of the binary's orbit with respect to the plane of the 

Find links to PHOEBE and other binary star 
projects at 

I T! 

Edge-on orbit, 
stars equal size 


Orbit tilted 

10° down, 

stars equal size 

Orbit tilted 

20° down, 

stars equal size 

Edge-on orbit, 

star A = 2x size 

of star B 

Primary Secondary 

Small parameter tweaks can have big effects. At top is the 
light curve for a binary with two stars of the same size, seen 
at an inclination of 90° in the plane of the sky (we see the 
system edge-on). The next two light curves show the same 
system seen at 80° and 70° inclination. As you can see, a 
mere 20° shift in inclination makes the eclipse dips virtually 
nonexistent. The bottom curve shows an edge-on system 
where one star is twice as big as the other. The deeper 
eclipse occurs when the smaller star passes in front of the 
larger one, because the small one is dimmer. 

sky. When the inclination is 90°, the centers of the stars' 
disks will pass directly in front of each other, causing 
total or annular eclipses depending on the stars' sizes. As 
the inclination decreases the eclipses will become partial, 
growing shallower with decreasing angle until ultimately 
they disappear altogether. 

In a complex model such as WD, there are dozens of 
parameters that fully describe a binary model. Part of the 
art of fitting observations is to understand which param- 
eters are important for binaries of different kinds, and 
in turn which of those important parameters you should 
adjust to fit a set of light and/or radial-velocity curves. In 

34 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

this regard, binary star data analysis is a bit like learning 
to play chess. There are few rules to learn, but master- 
ing how to put them all together can take a while. That's 
where PHOEBE can help. 

PHOEBE to the Rescue 

PHOEBE makes it easy to develop the intuition about how 
the parameters of a binary affect its observables. You can 
build a model for an imaginary binary, change a param- 
eter, and then replot the light curve to see what differ- 
ence it makes. You can steadily decrease the inclination 
and watch the eclipses get shallower. You can increase 
the radius of one or both stars and watch the eclipses get 
wider. You will even come across parameters, such as the 
semi-major axis of the binary orbit, that have absolutely no 
effect on the shape of a light curve but a huge effect on a 
radial-velocity curve. Learning these sorts of things is the 
first step in learning how to do binary star data analysis. 

This intuition will make you see binary observations in 
a new way. You may observe some eclipsing binary, plot out 
its light curve, and find yourself wowed by it. It's so beauti- 
ful you'll even show it to your non- astronomer friends, 
who will wonder how a bunch of points on a sheet of paper 
can get you so excited. But you'll be excited because you 
know from playing with PHOEBE that from those "bor- 
ing" points you can figure out all sorts of things about your 
binary, such as the shapes of the stars, their temperatures, 
how fast they are spinning, how far apart they are, how 
they orbit each other, whether they are young or old, and 
whether material is flowing from one star to the other. 
Those insights will probably intrigue your friends a bit 
more. It's fascinating what you can discern about binaries 
from that beautiful light curve of yours, even about events 
that happened to the stars millions of years ago. 

If you find that difficult to believe, just consider Algol 
(Beta Persei), perhaps the most famous eclipsing binary 
of them all. 

Algol (Beta Persei) once presented a distressing puzzle: its 
lower-mass secondary star (orange) is more evolved, while its 
higher-mass primary still appears relatively young. Astrono- 
mers finally solved the paradox when they realized that the sec- 
ondary star was once the more massive one and had dumped 
most of its mass onto the primary when it puffed up in old age, 
thereby reversing the mass ratio. 

From studies of its light and radial-velocity curves, 
astronomers discovered that Algol's cooler and lower-mass 
secondary star is actually an evolved star, while its higher- 
mass primary star is still a normal, relatively unevolved 
main-sequence star like the Sun. Since we know that 
massive stars evolve more quickly than lower-mass stars, 
this presented quite a conundrum, known as the Algol 
Paradox. This situation prompted theorists to develop 
models of the evolutionary history of Algol, revealing 
that the secondary star was once the more massive one. It 
expanded millions of years ago and dumped most of its 

System Properties of Algol 

Radial Velocity 

Light Curve 







Using photometric and spectroscopic observations of Algol, you can fit curves to the data to reveal the system's properties. The 
light curve is sensitive to changes in inclination and stellar radii, whereas the radial-velocity plot is sensitive to mass. As you can 
see, the more massive primary (orange dots) moves less in the radial-velocity diagram than the secondary (green dots). August 2012 35 

Pro-Am Stellar Software 

The eclipsing binary star Algol fades every 2.87 days from its 
usual 2.1 magnitude to 3.4 and back. It stays near minimum 
light for two hours, and it takes several additional hours to 
fade and to rebrighten. Shown below are magnitudes of com- 
parison stars (with the decimal points omitted). 

Minima of Algol 



-RIANGULUM ^<^ 3 4 

These geocentric predictions are from the heliocentric elements Min. = JD 
2452253.559 + 2.867362E, where E is any integer. Derived by Cerry Samolyk 
(AAVSO), they reflect a slight lengthening in the star's period that seems to 
have occurred in early 2000. Predictions courtesy Marvin Baldwin. For more 
about this star, visit 

mass onto the now more-massive primary, reversing the 
mass ratio. So light and radial-velocity curves, along with 
some clever thinking, can indeed result in an amazing 
sleuthing job. 

Where the Curves May Lead 

In PHOEBE, first you feed the program photometric or 
spectroscopic observations you or others have made (such 
as the extremely precise observations made by NASA's 
Kepler spacecraft or results published in journals) and tell 
it which filters you used. Then you have some fun setting 
and adjusting parameters based on what your intuition 
tells you about your data. You change some parameters 
and the fit looks better. At some point you might discover 
that continued changes in the parameters you've selected 
don't appear to make any difference. Maybe other param- 
eters need to be modified. Maybe the binary is quite differ- 
ent from what you originally imagined. You make changes 
and the fit looks better. Eventually you get a match to the 
observations that looks really good. Now what? 

The next step is to make sure that your proposed solu- 
tion makes astrophysical sense. It's tempting to think that 
just because the computer spits out a solution that looks 
good, it must be right. This is where collaboration with a 
professional astronomer who specializes in stellar astro- 
physics will help. He or she can advise you on whether 
your solution is reasonable. You might, for example, come 
up with a great solution for the light curve of Beta Lyrae, 
only to find out later that it's a system with a very thick 
disk of material around one of the stars, a situation that 
even the venerable WD model cannot handle. The param- 
eters you arrive at would be complete nonsense. 

How do you establish such a collaboration? Most of the 
time you just have to ask. Professionals' e-mail addresses 
are often listed in their research papers. I have worked 
with amateur astronomers for a couple of decades now 
and I am always happy to help them do research. We use 
the website at and an 
e-mail list to communicate. The American Association of 
Variable Star Observers is also a good place to find oppor- 
tunities for professional-amateur collaboration. 

Once you have arrived at a good, reasonable solution 
for your data, the next step is to write up a paper describ- 
ing what you did and what the results were. When first 
starting out, collaboration with a professional will help 
allay any anxieties you may have about writing a paper. 
As you do it more, it will become easier — I have worked 
with amateur colleagues for years who now write excellent 
papers with very little input from me. Once you've writ- 
ten the paper, you submit it to an astronomical journal 
and go through the refereeing process. The referee will 
assess the work you've done and perhaps suggest changes 
that would improve the paper. If the journal accepts your 
paper, it will publish it and your hard work will become a 
permanent, official contribution to humanity's knowledge 
of the universe. 

And maybe your friends will be a little more impressed 
with those dots on a piece of paper that you spent all those 
hours analyzing. + 

Dirk Terrell is an astrophysicist at the Southwest Research 
Institute in Boulder, Colorado, where he serves as the man- 
ager of the Astronomy and Computer Systems section. He is 
also on the PHOEBE development team. 

36 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 




Observing Section; 
Highlights of the 
Summer Sky M3 



. 71* 

S/ry & Telescope is now available on Apple iPad 

If you're a current print subscriber enjoying your free digital edition of S&T on a 
desktop or laptop computer, you can now get a free iPad edition by downloading * 
the Sky & Telescope app at the iTunes App Store. Digital issues include links to 
bonus audio interviews, videos, and image galleries. 

Digital issues are free for current print subscribers. If you're not a print subscriber, a monthly iPad 
subscription is $3.99 per issue ($2 off the U.S. newsstand price); a year's subscription is $37.99. 

^J Astro Gear 

N EAF 2012 

This astronomical extravaganza in Suffern, New York, 

is an annual rite of spring for amateur astronomers in the Northeast. 

Now entering its third decade, the Northeast Astronomy Forum 
(NEAF) easily lays claim to being the largest annual gathering of 
amateur astronomers in North America. Every April several thou- 
sand astronomy enthusiasts flock to the two-day event to hear talks, 
hobnob with fellow amateurs, and, in particular, wander among the 
equipment displayed by manufacturers and dealers. And several 
hundred of these participants also arrive a few days early to attend 
the popular Northeast Astro-Imaging Conference (NEAIC). 

Our Sky & Telescope colleagues also show up en masse for these 
events, since NEAF and NEAIC are great opportunities for all of us 
to interact firsthand with many readers. But as the magazine's resi- 
dent gear heads, we (Dennis and Sean) also spend as much time as 
possible looking at the latest telescopes and accessories on display 
at both events, some of it being shown publicly for the first time. 

Each year we see more and more digital technology infiltrating 
the hobby, much of it aimed at automating the collection of data for 

astrophotography and scientific research. And at this year's events, 
held April 26-29, the trend was particularly evident in several new 
telescope mounts introduced by manufacturers. 

When film ruled the world of astrophotography, to be considered 
premium, an equatorial telescope mount only had to be solid with 
a smooth-running drive and slow-motion controls, because the 
long exposures that film required always had to be guided. Digital 
photography, however, has dramatically shortened the duration of 
individual exposures. And in response, today's mount manufactur- 
ers are turning to sophisticated digital control systems that can flaw- 
lessly track the sky without external guiding for the length of these 
short exposures. It will be fascinating to watch as this trend contin- 
ues to evolve in the coming years. The pictures here highlight some 
of the equipment that we found particularly noteworthy this year. 

— Photos and Text by Dennis di Cicco & Sean Walker 

11 • Vic Maris of Stellarvue proved that some of the big things at NEAF are 
small. He was constantly busy showing off the latest apochromatic refractor in his telescope line. 
The 50-mm doublet, with an introductory price of $499, has a dual-speed 2-inch focuser, clam- 
shell tube ring, and options that will include a photographic field flattener later this year. 

38 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

H • The unique "differential" autoguiding 
system from SBIG is unaffected by mechanical flexure. 
The prototype on display is in the final stages of testing. 

El • Although high-tech gear 
grabs headlines, NEAF has plenty of the "basics" such as 
the quality Dobsonians exhibited by Teeter's Telescopes. 

New to its line of highly portable 
reflectors, the 18-inch f/4.5 Portaball 
from Mag 1 Instruments attracted a 
lot of well-deserved attention. 

% WV J 






! Mi 


1 — 











™*h r 

• % 


& ^^m 




\' -•.-•..•"" 

'f*y^-'. PIS 


Astro Gear 

H • Telescope Engineering 
Company president Yuri Petrunin (right) explains the Houghton -Tere- 
bizh optics of the TEC 300VT to astrophotographer John Boudreau. 
The 300-mm (11.8-inch) astrograph has an incredible f/1.44 speed 
and is designed for large-format CCD cameras. 

n • The Meade booth drew a constant crowd of 
amateurs eager to check out the brand new line of LX600 telescopes 
(the 16-inch is pictured), which combine the company's latest optical 
and electronic innovations in classic fork-mounted instruments. 

Q • The SkyProdigy line from Celestron now 
includes a 6-inch f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, the largest 
instrument currently available on the company's Co To mounts that 
align themselves without any input from the user. 

fl • During a public unveiling on Saturday 
morning, iOptron president and CEO Hua Jiang demonstrated the 
company's highly portable SmartEQ Co To mount. 

Q • Starlight Instruments displayed 
a wide variety of high-end focusers, including a wireless system that 
controls two focusers simultaneously. The company also exhibited 
its new adjustable observing chair suitable for large telescopes. 

Elfl • Among the international equip- 
ment on display this year were equatorial telescope mounts made by 
Avalon Instruments of Italy. Using novel belt drives, they are part of 
today's new breed of mounts designed especially for digital imaging. 



40 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE August 2012 41 

Astro Gear 

EQ • Tele Vue had one of the biggest product 
rollouts this year when it announced five more Delos eyepieces. 
These highly regarded lJ4-inch eyepieces with 72° apparent 
fields of view now range from 3.5- to 17.3-mm focal length. 

FF3 • The folks at Santa Barbara Instrument 
Group (SBIC) also had a noteworthy product rollout, which 
included the STT and STXL lines of CCD cameras that incorporate 
state-of-the-art features, many of which were in response to user 
requests. Also displayed were several new filter wheels. 

FE1 • NEAF newcomer Astro Dream 
Tech from South Korea displayed several new high-end German 
equatorial Go To mounts in its Morningcalm line. 

FFl • For fun, the Astro-Physics booth 
was themed after a 1950s Sweet 16 party for the launch of 
its new 1600GTO German equatorial mount and 175-mm f/8 
StarFire EDF apo refractor. Employees were easy to spot in the 
crowd thanks to poodle skirts, soda-jerk attire, and the Buddy 
Holly look of company president Roland Christen (pictured). + 

42 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 


m ust 201 

In This Section 

44 Sky at a Glance 

44 Northern Hemisphere Sky Chart 

45 Binocular Highlight: M23 and M25 

46 Planetary Almanac 

47 Northern Hemisphere's Sky: 
The Big, the Bright, and the Easy 

48 Sun, Moon & Planets: Mars Threads a Cap 


The Bubble Nebula is one of the highlights of 
William Herschel's catalog; see page 60. 

50 Celestial Calendar 

50 The Return of the Perseids 

51 A Daytime Occupation of Venus 

52 Jupiter's Satellites 

52 Venus, Jupiter, Vesta, and Ceres 

54 Exploring the Moon: A Tool for Lunar Observers 

55 Lunar Librations and Phases 

56 Deep-Sky Wonders: Aquila's High Heaven 
58 Web Links: Online Test Reports 
Additional Observing Article: 

60 The Herschel Project August 2012 43 


Sky At A Glance 

ITTf 1 

AUGUST 2012 

11 DAWN: The Moon forms a tight triangle with 
Jupiter and Aldebaran; see page 48. 

11-12 LATE NIGHT: The Perseid meteor shower peaks 
after midnight; see page 50. 

13 DAWN: Venus shines below the thin 
crescent Moon. 

AFTERNOON: The Moon occults (hides) Venus 
in broad daylight for most of North America, and 
before dawn in northeastern Asia (where the 
date is August 14th). See page 51 for details. 

13, 14 DUSK: Mars threads the narrow gap between 
Saturn and Spica low in the west-southwest. 

Go out within an hour of a time 
listed to the right. Turn the map 
around so the yellow label for the 
direction you're facing is at the 
bottom. That's the horizon. Above 
it are the constellations in front of 
you. The center of the map is 
overhead. Ignore the parts 
of the map above horizons 
you're not facing. 

40° NORTH. 

sm a*ao\3"*> 

14-22 DAWN: This is the peak of Mercury's excellent 
dawn apparition. It's more than 10° above the 
eastern horizon a half hour before sunrise for 
observers at latitude 40° north. 

16 DAWN: Binoculars may help you find the 
extremely thin waning crescent Moon well 
below Mercury very low in the east a half 
hour before sunrise. 

21 DUSK: The waxing crescent Moon makes a 
lovely quadrilateral with Mars, Saturn, and Spica 
low in the west in late twilight; see page 48. 

31 DAWN: Binoculars show Regulus just ~\%° lower 
right of brighter Mercury. Look very low in the 
east-northeast 20 minutes before sunrise. 

Planet Visibility 


^ ^^i 7 

^. c> 


Visible August 10 through 31 


Fu M Mis 

~ M25 . 

Moon Phases 



Double star 

Variable star 

Open cluster 

Diffuse nebula 

Globular cluster 

Planetary nebula 

r c °*oa 


> * 

Late June 1 a.m." 

Early July Midnight* 

Late July 11 p.m.* 

Early August 10 p.m.* 

Late August Dusk 

* Daylight-saving time. 

^ /J*v 

>» ">o* 

a o n i n 
\vs a n 

eqn M i. » v '^ 

A o d v a a 

/Zenith > 4- 

«* Oo 

Gary Seronik 
Binocular Highlight 

Sagittarius Leftovers 

Sagittarius is stocked with such an abundance of first- 
rate binocular sights that even some Messier objects 
tend to get overlooked. Two of the constellation's 
underappreciated open clusters are M23 and M25. 
I suspect they would be viewed far more frequently in 
a less congested patch of sky. 

Our jumping-off point for both clusters is Mu (|Li) 
Sagittarii, a 3.8-magnitude star lying one binocular 
field northwest of the top of the Teapot, Lambda (k) 
Sagittarii. To get to M25, place Mu at the 3 o'clock 
position in your binoculars, and the4.6-magnitude 
cluster will enter the field at 10 o'clock. In 10x50s, M25 
breaks into about a dozen individual stars, five of which 
shine at 7th or 8th magnitude among a smattering of 
fainter ones. The two brightest cluster members are 
parked on the northern edge, while a close pair marks 
the central core region. My 15x45 image-stabilized 
binoculars tease out a few more faint glints, giving the 
gathering a richer, fuller appearance. 

Return to Mu, place it at 8 o'clock, and you'll find 
5.5-magnitude M23 situated at the 2 o'clock position, 
next to a 6.5-magnitude field star. In 10x50s, M23 is a 
rich shimmer of pale starlight on the verge of resolution. 
With averted vision (looking slightly to one side of 
M23), faint cluster stars tantalizingly jump in and out 
of view. The extra magnification of my 15x45s makes 
these dim sparkles slightly easier to see. Unlike M25, 
M23 doesn't have a clutch of prominent members. Its 
single standout is an 8.2-magnitude star dominating the 
northeast corner. However, this is simply a foreground 
object and not a true cluster member. Still, it gives the 
scene a little extra appeal. ♦ 


5 Star 

4 magnitudes 

To watch a video tutorial on how to use 
the big sky map on the left, hosted by 
S&T senior editor Alan MacRobert, visit August 2012 



Planetary Almanac 


) > » • 

Augl 11 21 31 



31 \ 


1 -\r on 

1 16 31 




Uranus Ml 

Neptune ^ 

Pluto , 10" , 

Sun ai 

id Planets, August 

August Right Ascension Declination 



Magnitude Diameter 




1 8 h 45.7 m 

+18° or 



31' 31" 



31 10 h 38.0 m 

+8° 38' 







1 8 h 19.8 m 

+14° 42' 

7° Mo 





11 8 h 13.4 m 

+ 17° 18' 

17° Mo 

+ 1.0 




21 8 h 51.9 m 

+ 17° 43' 

18° Mo 





31 10 h 01.8 m 

+ 13° 47' 

10° Mo 






1 5 h 35.5 m 

+19° 10' 

45° Mo 





11 6 h 12.4 m 

+19° 50' 

46° Mo 





21 6 h 53.4 m 

+20° 0(T 

46° Mo 





31 7 h 36.9 m 

+ 19° 27' 

45° Mo 






1 12 h 58.2 m 

-6° 20' 

67° Ev 

+ 1.1 




16 13 h 32.1 m 

-9° 58' 

62° Ev 

+ 1.1 




31 14 h 08.5 m 

-13° 31' 

57° Ev 

+ 1.2 





1 4 h 34.3 m 

+21° 12' 

59° Mo 





31 4 h 52.3 m 

+21° 44' 

84° Mo 






1 13 h 31.2 m 

-6° 56' 

75° Ev 

+ 0.8 




31 13 h 39.7 m 

-7° 52' 

48° Ev 

+ 0.8 





16 O h 30.3 m 

+2° 27' 

135° Mo 






16 22 h 16.1 m 

-11° 25' 

172° Mo 






16 18 h 29.8 m 

-19° 31' 

134° Ev 

+ 14.0 




The table above gives each object's right ascension and declination (equinox 2000.0) at h Universal Time on selected 
dates, and its elongation from the Sun in the morning (Mo) or evening (Ev) sky. Next are the visual magnitude and 
equatorial diameter. (Saturn's ring extent is 2.27 times its equatorial diameter.) Last are the percentage of a planet's disk 
illuminated by the Sun and the distance from Earth in astronomical units. (Based on the mean Earth-Sun distance, 1 a.u. 
is 149,597,871 kilometers, or 92,955,807 international miles.) For other dates, see 

Planet disks at left have south up, to match the view in many telescopes. Blue ticks indicate the pole currently tilted 
toward Earth. 

The Sun and planets are positioned for mid-August; the colored arrows show the motion of each during the month. The Moon is plotted for evening dates in the Americas when it's waxing (right 
side illuminated) or full, and for morning dates when it's waning (left side). "Local time of transit" tells when (in Local Mean Time) objects cross the meridian — that is, when they appear due south 
and at their highest — at mid-month. Transits occur an hour later on the 1st, and an hour earlier at month's end. 


46 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 


Northern Hemisphere's Sky 

The Big, the 
Bright, and 
the Easy 

Summer has it all, from superwide 
doubles to the greatest galaxy. 

Welcome back to the Summer After-Dusk Sky, which 
appears in slightly different orientations in the all- sky 
maps for July, August, and September. Last month I dis- 
cussed this sky's brightest stars, its renowned asterisms, 
and its distinctively colored single and double stars. Let's 
continue our exploration. 

Wide double stars. The Summer After-Dusk Sky 
abounds in very wide double stars. The brightest and 
widest star pairing — never considered a double because 
the stars are a full 35' apart — is 1.6-magnitude Lambda 
Scorpii (Shaula) and 2.7-magnitude Upsilon Scorpii 
(Lesath). The pair forms the point of the Stinger of Scor- 
pius, and it's also sometimes called the Cat's Eyes. It's as 
high as it ever gets at our map time — which is still quite 
low for observers at mid-northern latitudes. 

The naked-eye pairing of Mizar and Alcor (separa- 
tion 12') is high in the northwest at the crook of the Big 
Dipper's handle. Many people need no optical aid to 
split Alpha Capricorni, now low in the southeast, into 
two stars 6.3' apart. And some sharp-eyed observers can 
split Epsilon Lyrae without optical aid into two similarly 
bright components 2.5' apart. But you need a telescope 
at lOOx to split Epsilon's naked- eye components into 
two tight pairs of similarly bright stars — the renowned 
"Double Double." 

Wide pairs that can be split with binoculars include 
Alpha Librae and Nu Draconis, the dimmest star of 
Draco's compact head. But Beta Scorpii (separation 13.6") 
needs low-power telescopic magnification. 

Glorious globulars. Our map time is the best for 
observing the full span of great globular star clusters 
from M3 in the west to M15 and M2 in the east. Choose 
the globular cluster that impresses you the most. Could 
it be M3 in Canes Venatici? Or M5 in Serpens? Or the 
renowned M13 almost overhead in Hercules? Or M22 in 
Sagittarius? Or perhaps M4 in Scorpius? The only Messier 
globulars that are not in the sky now are the relatively 
lackluster M79 in Lepus and M68 in Hydra. 

Fred Schaaf welcomes your 

r ed Schaaf 


Showcase open clusters. Summer evenings don't 
offer nearly as many bright open clusters as winter does, 
but summer's open clusters far outnumber those of 
spring and autumn — and include some of the best in the 
heavens. What pair of huge open clusters could be better 
than M6 and M7 near the Stinger of Scorpius? What open 
cluster could be richer and more stirring than Scutum's 
marvelous Mil? And the glorious Double Cluster in Per- 
seus is rising low in the northeast. 

Brilliant nebulae. M8 (the Lagoon), M20 (the Trifid), 
M17 (the Omega), and M16 (the Eagle) are among the best 
of all diffuse nebulae. These luminous clouds of starbirth 
occupy an amazingly compact span from northwestern 
Sagittarius to southern Serpens. 

Planetaries and a supernova remnant. Early 
autumn evenings may offer more really bright or big 
planetary nebulae. But the Summer After-Dusk Sky 
features high views of the two most famous and widely 
observed of all these stellar death-clouds. Summer isn't 
summer for astronomers without reveling in M57, the 
Ring Nebula in Lyra, and M27, the Dumbbell Nebula in 
Vulpecula. And there's the remnant from a tremendously 
greater stellar disruption: the Veil Nebula in Cygnus. 

Galaxies and dark nebulae. Okay, summer evenings 
are starved of galaxies if you go by numbers. The Virgo 
Galaxy Cluster is setting, and M31 in Andromeda is still 
low in the northeast. But at this time one other galaxy — 
a galaxy cleft, fretted, and blotched with dark clouds of 
gas and dust — makes a shining arch high across the sky. 
Its name is the Milky Way. + August 2012 



Sun, Moon & Planets 

Mars Threads a Gap 

The fiery planet passes between Saturn and Spica at dusk. 

Low in the west-southwest at night- 
fall, three similarly bright but differently 
colored lights converge in the first half of 
August, then diverge in the second half. 
These are the planets Saturn and Mars 
and the star Spica. 

A few hours after this trio sets, very 
bright Jupiter rises in the middle of the 
night. Venus rises far to Jupiter's lower left 
around 3 a.m. daylight-saving time. And 
from mid- to late August, Mercury pops 
up fairly early in morning twilight. 


Mars passes between Saturn and Spica 
low in the west- southwest at dusk before 
mid-month. The three are less than 20° 
high in mid-twilight for viewers around 
latitude 40° north, which is very low for 
detailed telescopic views of the planets. 
But the primary excitement is the naked- 
eye spectacle: watching the shifting pat- 
tern of these three similarly bright objects 

— enhanced by the nearby Moon around 
August 21st. 

Saturn, creeping slowly eastward, is 
4V2° north-northwest of Spica in the first 
half of August, and it's still less than 5° 
north-northeast of Spica at month's end. 

Mars, by contrast, moves eastward rap- 
idly. It starts the month 7Vi° west of Sat- 
urn and Spica and passes between them 
on the American evenings of August 13th 
and 14th. Saturn, Mars, and Spica form 
a short, nearly straight line both nights. 
From August 8th through 19th they form 
a "trio" — a temporary grouping of three 
celestial objects within a circle less than 
5° wide. But by August 31st Mars lies 9Vi° 
upper left of Saturn and IIV2 from Spica. 

Spica is always magnitude 1.0, Saturn 
is 0.8 in August, and Mars dims slightly 
from 1.1 to 1.2. Mars is golden-orange, 
Saturn whitish gold, and Spica icy white 
with a hint of blue. Binoculars make these 
hues more obvious. 


Neptune reaches opposition in Aquarius 
on August 24th, so it's highest in the 
middle of the night this month. The 
distant planet shines at magnitude 7.8 and 
appears 2. 4" wide through a telescope. 

Uranus rises around nightfall but isn't 
highest in the south until the small hours 
of the morning. It glows at magnitude 5.8 
in extreme northwestern Cetus, and is 
3.6" wide. Finder charts for Neptune and 
Uranus will appear in next month's issue 
and are online at 

Pluto is in Sagittarius, so it's highest 
in mid-evening. Use the finder chart on 
page 52 of the June issue to spot this chal- 
lenging 14th-magnitude spark. 


Jupiter comes up around 1 or 2 a.m. 
(daylight-saving time) as August begins, 
and two hours earlier at month's end. 
Jupiter brightens marginally, from mag- 

Dusk, Aug 20 - 22 

1 hour after sunset 

Aug 11 -13 

Around 3 am 

W Au g n 


Looking West-Southwest 

These scenes are drawn for near the middle of North America (latitude 40° north, longitude 90° 
west); European observers should move each Moon symbol a quarter of the way toward the one for 
the previous date. In the Far East, move the Moon halfway. The blue 10° scale bar is about the width 
of your fist at arm's length. For clarity, the Moon is shown three times its actual apparent size. 

August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

^ Aug 13 

Looking East-Northeast 

To see what the sky looks like at any given time and date, go to 


The curved arrows show each planet's 
movement during August. The outer planets 
don't change position enough in a month to 
notice at this scale. 

nitude -2.2 to -2.3, while inching slowly 
away from Aldebaran and the Hyades in 
Taurus. The best time for telescopic views 
of Jupiter this month is early in morning 
twilight, when the planet is 40° to 60° 
high in the east or southeast. 

Venus rises about the same time all 
August: around 3 a.m. daylight-saving 
time. It accomplishes this by racing 
eastward against the westward seasonal 
progression of the constellations, starting 
the month about 2° from Zeta Tauri and 
ending in eastern Gemini near Cancer. 

Venus and Jupiter were close com- 
panions in July, but Venus leaves much 
slower Jupiter behind in August; they end 
the month almost 40° apart. But Venus is 
ready for its solo, which turns out to be a 
virtuoso performance — one of the two 
loftiest morning apparitions of its 8-year 
cycle. Watch as Venus reaches greatest 

Dawn, Aug 13-16 

45 minutes before sunrise 

elongation, 46° west of the Sun, on August 
15th. By that morning it rises about 3V2 
hours before the Sun (seen from latitude 
40° north). Near its greatest elongation 
Venus is fascinating to observe in a tele- 
scope, appearing half-lit. 

Mercury springs up to its own greatest 
elongation, 19° from the Sun, on August 
16th — just one day after Venus. This is 
a high but brief apparition of Mercury 
for mid-northern sky watchers. Mer- 
cury probably isn't bright enough to see 
without binoculars before about August 
10th, but then it brightens and climbs 
rapidly, hitting magnitude zero by great- 
est elongation. It's then rising about IV2 

Dawn, Aug 31 

20 minutes before sunrise 

hours before the Sun, far to Venus's lower 
left. Mercury continues to brighten after 
greatest elongation, but it falls rapidly in 
August's last week. 

By August 31st Mercury is buried deep 
in bright morning twilight, very low in the 
east-northeast 20 minutes before sunrise. 
But it's worth a look anyway, because 
binoculars and telescopes will then show 
much fainter Regulus just 1 3 A° to Mer- 
cury's lower right. 


The Moon forms a tight, almost equilat- 
eral triangle with Jupiter and Aldebaran 
before the American dawn of August 11th. 
A thinner lunar crescent hangs close to 
Venus's upper right at dawn on August 
13th — then occults Venus in daytime 
for most of North America (see page 51). 
The Moon is much farther upper right of 
Mercury on August 15th. 

The Moon is new on August 17th, then 
reappears in the evening sky. The wax- 
ing crescent floats near Spica at dusk on 
August 21st with Mars and Saturn not 
far above them. The crescent Moon, star, 
and two planets then all fit in a circle just 
over 6° in diameter — a stunning sight in 
wide-field binoculars. + August 2012 

49 ^m 


lestial Calendar 



The Return of the Perseids 

Everyone's favorite summer meteor shower 
is due to peak on the night of August 11-12. 

/ gu 

Above: On the 

night of August 

12-13 last year, 

amateurs from 


Romania, drove 

to a relatively 

dark lakeside 

for a night of 

observing. In this 

time exposure, 

Curtasu Mihai 

caught a Perseid 

darting to the 

bowl of the Big 

Dipper. He later 

added a ghostly 

Ursa Major. 


The Perseids aren't quite the richest annual meteor 
shower — in most years that honor goes to the Decem- 
ber Geminids — but they're surely the most watched. 
The Perseids arrive in the August vacation season when 
nights are comfortable and families are often in places 
darker than usual. 

This year the Perseid shower should reach its peak 
late on the night of August 11-12, a Saturday night and 
Sunday morning. A few Perseids always dart across the 
stars in the evening, but the shower really gets under way 
only after 11 or midnight local time, as its radiant (per- 
spective point of origin) in northern Perseus rises high 
in the northeast. The higher a shower's radiant, the more 
meteors will appear all over the sky. 

A thick waning crescent Moon comes up by 1 or 2 a.m. 
that night. But its modest light, notes the International 
Meteor Organization (IMO), "should be considered more 
of a nuisance than a deterrent," even for serious meteor- 
counting efforts (described at 

With luck, you may see one or two Perseids a minute 
on average after midnight. Rates should increase through 
the morning hours as the radiant gains altitude, until 
dawn finally interferes. 

The shower's true peak, as determined by meteor 
counters observing continuously in relays around the 
globe, has been arriving several hours ahead of or behind 
schedule in recent years, according to the IMO. These 
recent peaks correspond to anywhere from 7 h to 19. 5 h 
Universal Time August 12th this year. So, you might sight 
almost as many Perseids on the morning of the 13th (with 
a thinner Moon) as on the 12th. 

You're also likely to notice Perseids for several nights 
before and after. Rarer ones show up as early as mid- July 
and as late as August 24th. When you see a meteor during 
this period, follow its path far backward across the sky. If 
the line passes through a spot between northern Perseus 
and Cassiopeia (near the Double Cluster), a Perseid is 
almost surely what you saw. 

August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

Alan MacRobert 


A Daytime Occultation of Venus 

Mark your location, then interpolate between the red curves to find the Universal Time of Venus's 
disappearance and reappearance. Remember that 20:00 Universal Time is 4:00 p.m. Eastern Day- 
light Time, 3:00 p.m. CDT; 2:00 p.m. MDT; 1:00 p.m. PDT. The green lines show Venus's altitude 
above the horizon at the time of the event. 

In broad daylight on the afternoon of 
Monday, August 13th, telescope users 
across most of North America can watch 
the edge of the thin waning crescent 
Moon blot out bright, half-lit Venus in a 
blue sky. 

Venus will be near its greatest elonga- 
tion, 46° from the Sun. Unfortunately, 
this is a western elongation of Venus, so 
the planet and the dim Moon will be will 
be sinking in the west while the Sun is 
still blazing high in the sky. 

West Coast observers have the best 
view. Here the Moon will still be some 40° 
high when its sunlit limb moves across 
the bright white planet between 1 and 2 
p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, depending on 
where you are. Venus will reappear from 
behind the Moon's invisible dark limb as 
much as an hour or more later, seeming 
to emerge from nowhere into the blue. 

These dramatic events happen lower 
in the sky and later in the afternoon the 
farther east you are. Near the East Coast 
only the disappearance can be seen at 
all: with the Moon 3° above the west- 
northwest horizon as seen from Boston, 
5° from Washington D.C., and 8° from 
Atlanta. You'll need an open low view and 
very clear air. 

Finding where to look might not be 
easy. The crescent Moon is often difficult 
or impossible to see in the bright daytime 
sky when it's lower than the Sun is. Use 
your finderscope or binoculars to sweep 
the sky 46° (four or five fist-widths at 
arm's length) to the Sun's celestial west. 
The little white point of Venus is likely to 
stand out better than the dim crescent, so 
watch for it. 

The Moon's limb will cross Venus in 
slow motion. The planet's half-lit face 
will be 12" wide from east to west, so the 
Moon will take at least 25 seconds to cover 
and uncover it. Watch as Venus takes on 
un-Venuslike shapes during the process. 

The maps here tell when the disappear- 
ance and reappearance happen at your 
location, and the altitude of the Moon and 
Venus above your horizon at that time August 2012 



lestial Calenda 

Jupiter's Satellites 


Some sample disappearance and reappear- 
ance times: at San Francisco, 1:27 and 2:40 
p.m. PDT; Chicago, 3:37 and 4:29 p.m. 
CDT; Atlanta, disappearance only, 4:46 
p.m. EDT; New York, disappear-ance only, 
4:39 p.m. EDT. 

You can find a detailed timetable for 

hundreds of cities and towns across North 
America and in northeastern Asia (where 
the occultation happens before sunrise) at The 

first part of the table is for the disappear- 
ance; scroll nearly halfway down for the 
reappearance listings. 

The wavy lines represent Jupiter's four big satellites. The central 
vertical band is Jupiter itself. Each gray or black horizontal band is 
one day, from O h (upper edge of band) to 24 h UT (GMT). UT dates are 
at left. Slide a paper's edge down to your date and time, and read 
across to see the satellites' positions east or west of Jupiter. 

Venus, Jupiter, Vesta, Ceres 
All Pass the Hyades 

Brilliant Venus and Jupiter blaze in the 
east before dawn's first light this summer, 
from mid- July onward. And interesting 
things less obvious are going on right 

Both planets shine near Aldebaran 
and the Hyades in July. Jupiter stays near 
these stars through September, while 
Venus moves away. And the solar system's 
two most prominent asteroids, Ceres and 
Vesta, are also passing through. You can 
find them with a small telescope using the 
maps on the facing page. 

Neither asteroid is currently bright. 
Ceres is about magnitude 9.0 for most 
of July through September, and Vesta is 
roughly 8.2. But that puts them in easy 
reach of a small telescope. 

On the asteroids' paths, ticks show 
their positions at O h UT every four days. 

Put pencil dots where they and the planets 
will be on their paths at the time you'll 
observe. Starting from Aldebaran or a 
planet, star-hop your way to the asteroids' 
exact spots. Plan your route in advance, 
using the faintest stars only as you close 
in. Use the blue declination ticks along 
the charts' right edges to tell how big your 
finderscope's and main telescope's fields 
of view appear on the map. 

Ceres and Venus cross the Hyades in 
early and mid- July, when this part of the 
sky is very low in the east before the first 
light of dawn. You'll need to plan carefully 
when and where to set up your scope. 

Vesta follows along through the Hyades 
in late July and August, when the scene 
is higher before dawn. Vesta stands about 
0.3° from Aldebaran on the American 
mornings of August 5th and 6th. 

For all occupations of stars brighter than 5th magnitude visible worldwide for the rest of this year, see 

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Both asteroids will come to opposition 
in December, when Ceres will max out at 
magnitude 7.0 and Vesta at 6.4. We'll have 
another map in that month's issue. 

Not often do these two asteroids appear 
close together. Only every 17 years does 
Vesta, with an orbital period of 3.63 years, 
catch up to and pass slower Ceres, which 
has a 4.60-year orbit. And the last time this 
happened, in October-November 1996, they 
were poorly placed near the Sun. This year 
they never get much closer together than 6°, 
but they're much better located. + 

Four solar-system 
objects, two dazzling 
and two faint, cross 
the vicinity of the 
Hyades before dawn 
this summer. The ticks 
are at h Universal 
Time on the dates 
marked (which falls 
on the afternoon 
or evening of the 
previous date in the 
time zones of the 
Americas). August 2012 



Exploring the Moon 

A Tool for Lunar Observers 

Measuring the lunar surface adds science to your observations. 

Most readers of Sky & Telescope are familiar with the 
phenomenal high-resolution images acquired by NASA's 
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO for short (June 
issue, page 18). Best known are its sensational close-up 
views of the regolith disturbed by Apollo astronauts walk- 
ing and driving rovers across the lunar surface. But few 
observers are aware that LRO images and topographic 
data have been combined into exciting new tools that can 
help us understand what we see at the eyepiece. 

The LRO camera team has created the ACT-REACT 
Quick Map (, a 
global lunar mosaic that makes it easy to access any part 
of the Moon's surface. Quick Map opens as a global view 
and lets you zoom in to 100-meter (330-foot) resolution 
— about 10 to 20 times better than the sharpest backyard 
views. It also includes hyper- resolution image strips of 
about 20% of the lunar surface that allow you to zoom 
down nearly to an astronaut's perspective. 

Several additional capabilities have recently been added 
to Quick Map, but the one I have the most fun exploring 
is the Path tool. This feature lets you plot a virtual tour 
on the lunar surface by selecting origin and destination 
points, with any number of bends in between. Begin by 
selecting the Path tool and clicking the start of your jour- 


Using the Path tool allows you to measure the Moon's surface elevation along a 
chosen path. The red line at left reveals that the gently sloping floor of the crater 
Plato rises gradually toward the southeast. 

One of the new features in the ACT-REACT Quick Map (shown 
abovejallow you to explore lunar topography using the Lunar 
Reconnaissance Orbiter WAC and NAC data. Color-coded elevation 
measurements are based on the WAC digital terrain model. 

ney, then finish by double- clicking the end point. Once 
the path is selected, a small window titled Path Query 
opens, with the geodetic distance of your plotted path, 
followed by the cartographic distance, which takes into 
account the vertical distance along the route. Clicking the 
Submit button within the Path Query window then dis- 
plays a cross-section graph of elevation variations along 
your chosen route. Plotting such a topographic traverse 
across a 10-kilometer (6.4-mile) diameter crater such as 
Plato E will astonish you with graphic evidence that most 
craters are excavated far deeper than their rims protrude 
above the surrounding lunar surface. 

You can use the Path tool to discover that some barely 
detectable mare ridges, such as those in Sinus Aestuum, 
may actually be 250 to 300 meters high. In some cases, 
mare on one side of a ridge is hundreds of meters lower 
than on the other side — proof that mare ridges are geo- 
logical faults that have displaced the lunar surface. 

Careful observers can use Quick Map to confirm their 
observations and imaging results. For example, if you're 
trying to detect the smallest observable craterlets on the 
floor of Plato, you can compare your best image or sketch 
with the LRO mosaic in Quick Map. Simply use the 
Path tool to measure the diameter of the smallest fea- 
ture you've recorded to find out if it is 1.5, 1.0, or even an 
incredibly small 0.8 kilometer wide. 

August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

Contributing editor Charles A. Wood never consults a libration 
chart, preferring to be surprised at what chance bestows on him. 

Charles A. Wood 

Backyard astronomers can often see lunar details a few 
kilometers wide, and shadow magnification — shadows 
appearing longer than the projecting feature is high — 
emphasizes the heights of mountains and depths of cra- 
ters. Often you're unaware of how high or deep a feature 
is, and whether there's a gradual slope in elevation over 
dozens of kilometers that can distort shadow measure- 
ments. For instance, measuring a traverse across Plato 
with the Path tool reveals that the crater's floor descends 
200 to 250 meters toward the northwest. If a new volcanic 
eruption occurred within Plato (as is often dreamed of 
by transient lunar phenomena observers), the fluid lavas 
would flow toward the northwest side of the crater floor. 

It's difficult to tear yourself away from plotting tra- 
verses across every lunar feature: each time, there's new 
information to test your geology skills. These topographic 
cross-sections can transform our casual observing into 
genuine research. 

Lunar aficionado Maurice Collins of New Zealand 
wondered if the famous lava flows starting on the western 

side of Mare Imbrium flowed downhill. Quick Map 
quickly revealed that indeed they did, for the whole mare 
surface gradually declines to the east by roughly 600 
meters, or about 2,000 feet. In Rome, Raffaello Lena used 
Quick Map to determine the diameter and height of a 
relict island of old lava — a kipuka to use a Hawaiian term 
— that he captured in an image. The low Sun illumina- 
tion of the telescopic view displayed an abrupt change 
in slope at the edge of the kipuka, invisible in the LRO 
mosaic, but the topographic data revealed that it is 500 
meters (1,640 feet) high. 

The availability of exquisite LRO data does not reduce 
the value of amateur observations of the Moon, but in fact 
makes our observations more meaningful by literally add- 
ing another dimension of information. As one observer 
commented, "It's so neat to verify our observations while 
using and pushing our telescopes to their limits." + 

To get a daily lunar fix, visit contributing editor Charles 
Wood's website: 


The Moon August 2012 

^^^ ^^m 

^^r^ ^^^H 


V_J August 2, 3:27 UT 




VF August 9, 18:55 UT 

^m ■ 


W August 17, 15:54 UT 

■ p- w 1 

Hi m ^1 

\J August 24, 13:54 UT 

I 1 


W August 31, 13:58 UT 

B " m 

^^^K : ^1 


^K m 

Apogee August 10, ll h UT 

^^^^K ^1 

247,679 miles diam. 29' 59" 

^^^BjL A 

Perigee August 23, 19 h UT 

228,726 miles diam. 32' 28" 

Bp August 2 

■fe. ^m 

Lyot (crater) August 2 


Galvani (crater) August 14 

For key dates, yellow dots indicate what part of the Moon's limb is tipped 

Volta (crater) August 15 

the most toward Earth by libration under favorable illumination. 


Furneri us (crater) August 31 August 2012 



Deep-Sky Wonders 

Aquila's High Heaven 

A tiny region in the Eagle contains many diverse nebulae. 

Bird of the broad and sweeping wing! 

Thy home is high in heaven, 

Where wide the storms their banners fling, 

And the tempest clouds are driven. 

— James Gates Percival, To the Eagle, 1826 

Aquila, the Eagle, is one of three constellations con- 
tributing a corner star to the vast asterism known as 
the Summer Triangle. Unlike its partners Cygnus and 
Lyra, however, Aquila holds no bright deep-sky wonder 
that easily comes to mind. Yet even a small area of this 
constellation will offer a host of sights befitting its home 
amid the riches of the Milky Way. Let's spotlight a few 
that ride on Aquila's tail, as it's depicted on the all- sky 
chart at the center of this magazine. 

We'll begin with the lovely double star 23 Aquilae. 

Through my 130-mm refractor at 91x, its bright, gold 
primary snuggles a considerably dimmer companion to its 
north. The pair is nicely split and very pretty at 117x. The 
first sighting of this double is often attributed to Friedrich 
Georg Wilhelm Struve, but credit truly belongs to William 
Herschel, whose 1781 discovery predates Struve's birth. 
Herschel's description calls the primary pale red and the 
secondary dusky, while Struve's 
account lists them as yellow and 
blue. What colors do you see? 

NCC 6790 dwells 1.2° east- 
northeast of 23 Aquilae. Of the 
10 New General Catalogue plan- 
etary nebulae in Aquila, NGC 
6790 is the brightest and one 
of the smallest. With its light 

19*10™ •• 

V 6775. 


The crescent-shaped dark nebula B 138 dominates the 
southeastern quadrant of plate 40 in E. E. Barnard's 
photographic atlas. 

Star magnitudes 
4 5 6 7 8 9 10 

6772 V 


56 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

Sue French welcomes your comments at 

Sue Frencr 

concentrated in a tiny area, the planetary masquerades as 
a star at low magnifications. This little nebula begins to 
betray its true nature at 117x in my 130-mm scope. It isn't 
as sharp as the stars, and it glows with an unstarlike tur- 
quoise hue. It lies in a 9' asterism that looks like a gener- 
ously cut pie wedge pointing northwest. The point of the 
wedge is the asterism's brightest star, and the pie crust is 
an arc formed by NGC 6790 and two flanking stars. The 
nebula appears a bit brighter than the crust star to its 
northeast. At 234x NGC 6790 is clearly a very small disk 
with a bright center. The longer dimension listed in the 
table to the right includes faint lobes that are unlikely to 
be seen visually. 

NGC 6790 is thought to be a young planetary nebula, 
on the order of a few thousand years old, but with a large 
uncertainty due to the planetary's poorly known distance. 
Estimates made over the past decade place it anywhere 
from 4,000 to 13,000 light-years away from us. 

Now we'll drop down to 27 Aquilae and sweep 1° west 
to NGC 6775, a 13' gathering of stars whose status as a 
cluster is dubious. Through my 130-mm refractor at 37x, 
the area holds a granular haze with a disconnected patch 
to the east that enfolds a clump of very faint stars. At 117x 
this outlier spans 2' and displays seven stars embraced 
in a misty glow of unresolved suns. To the west, a loosely 
scattered collection of 20 faint stars tumbles northwest 
to southeast and widens as it goes. The two groups blend 
together fairly well in my 10-inch reflector at 213x, creat- 

The author sees NGC 6790 as the central 
"star" on the arc of a 9' pie wedge. The stars 
along the northern edge of this asterism are 
shown on the chart on the facing page. 

ing a 40-star cluster with vague, irregular boundaries. 

An 18' trapezoid of four 7th- to 9th-magnitude stars 
is centered 18' east- southeast of NGC 6775. The two stars 
forming the wide base point southward to the dark nebula 
Barnard 139. My 130-mm scope at 63x shows a 10' x 2' bar 
of darkness passing through a check mark made by four 
stars, magnitudes 11 to 13. The check mark's long branch 
runs north-south, with the short branch taking off from its 
southern end and trending northwest. An llth-magnitude 
star punctuates the east- southeastern end of this shadowy 
nebula. Through my 14. 5 -inch reflector at 170x, the bar 
appears lumpy and remains nearly devoid of stars. 

In the magnificent 1927 posthumous work A Photo- 
graphic Atlas of Selected Regions of the Milky Way, Edward 
Emerson Barnard points out that B139 sits off the south- 
ern end of B138, a huge arc of dark nebulosity averaging 
10' in width and spanning 3° on the sky. Describing B138 
on Plate 40 of the atlas (shown on the facing page), Bar- 
nard writes that it "looks like a great black lizard crawling 
south. Its body is curved toward the west, and the head 
is the sharply defined black spot B139." Dark projections 
give legs to Barnard's dusky lizard. 

B139 points to an 8th-magnitude star 9' off its east- 
southeastern tip. The planetary nebula NGC 6778 sits 5' 
west- southwest of this star. My 105 -mm refractor at 47x 
merely shows a tiny, faint, gray spot. A magnification of 
87x lends some dimension to the nebula, which stands 

Highlights of Central Aquila 

Object Type Mag(v) 




23 Aql 

Double star 

5.3, 8.3 


19 h 18.5 m 

+1° 05' 

NGC 6790 

Planetary nebula 


4.5" x 2.0" 

19 h 22.9 m 


NGC 6775 

Open cluster? 



19 h 16.5 m 

-0° 55' 


Dark nebula 


10' x 2' 

19 h 17.9 m 

-1° 26' 

NGC 6778 

Planetary nebula 



19 h 18.4 m 

-1° 36' 

NGC 6772 

Planetary nebula 


70" x 56" 

19 h 14.6 m 

-2° 42' 

Abell 55 

Planetary nebula 


57" x 52" 

19 h 10.4 m 

-2° 20' 

Angular sizes and separations are from recent catalogs. Visi 
the cataloged value and varies according to the aperture anc 
Right ascension and declination are for equinox 2000.0. 

ally, an object 

s size is often smaller than 
of the viewing instrument. August 2012 



Deep-Sky Wonders 

NGC 6772 is a squared-offring about V wide. 

This false-color image of NGC 6778 shows nitrogen emissions 
as red, ox/gen as blue, and hydrogen as green. 

out better with an O III filter. The planetary is dimmer 
around its edge at 127x without a filter. 

In my 10-inch scope at 115x, NGC 6778 is a moderately 
small and bright oblong tipped east-southeast. At 213x it 
appears almost rectangular with faint extensions lining 
the long sides. My 14. 5 -inch scope at low power adds a 
blue-gray hue to the nebula. At 276x the bright region 
resembles two fat bars that cross in the center at a very 
narrow angle (like a pair of nearly closed scissors). These 
crossed bars overlay a fainter haze that bows outward 
along the long sides. 

A paper (Brent Miszalski et al.) in Astronomy & Astro- 
physics last year proved that NGC 6778's central star is a 
tight binary with a hasty orbital period of only 3.7 hours. 
While the primary is on its way to white- dwarfhood, the 
companion is a main-sequence star fusing hydrogen in its 
core, as does our Sun. The combined pair weighs in any- 
where from 15th to 18th magnitude, depending on what 
source you use. I didn't see it, but if you do, please let me 
know how bright you think it is. 

About 2° south of NGC 6775, you'll find a distinctive 
chain of stars that's about 1° long and visible in a 50-mm 
finder under moderately dark skies. The planetary nebula 
NGC 6772 lies Va° west of the fork in the chain's north- 
northeastern end. With the 105 -mm refractor and an 

O III filter at 47x, I can spot the nebula with 
direct vision and can hold it steadily in view 
with averted vision (that is, by looking a little off to 
one side of the object). Keeping the filter and boosting the 
power to 87x presents me with a roundish, moderate-size 
disk. I can see the nebula well through my 130-mm scope 
at 164x, and I estimate a diameter of 1' — about the same 
as the width of the Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra. 

NGC 6772 is charmingly peculiar through larger 
telescopes. The 10-inch scope at 115x makes it look squar- 
ish with a small, slightly darker center. Narrowband or 
O III filters aid the view. NGC 6772 is an easy target for 
the 14.5-inch. At 170x the nebula tilts north-northeast, 
and its broad rim is uneven in brightness. 

Sweeping 52' west of NGC 6772 brings us to a yellow 
8th-magnitude star, and veering 21' northwest from there 
we find a 9' trapezoid of four 10th- to 12th-magnitude stars. 
Abell 55 (PK 33-5 1) lies along the eastern side of the 
trapezoid, three-quarters of the way from the trapezoid's 
brightest star to its faintest star. This planetary nebula is 
visible through my 10-inch scope at 115x as a faint, sizable, 
roundish glow. It stands out a bit better with a narrow- 
band filter. With my 15-inch reflector at 133x, the nebula 
is rather easy and appears a little less than 1' across with 
some extremely faint stars very close to it. A UHC filter 
improves the nebula, and an O III filter even more so. 

Fashioned from material driven from dying stars, 
Aquila's planetary nebulae are the tempest clouds of the 
celestial Eagle, soaring in his high heaven. ♦ 

Abell 55 lies along the long edge of a 9' star quadrangle. 

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371 Commerce Park Drive 
Jackson, HAS 39213 

^ Deep-Sky Observing Odyssey 

IS IT POSSIBLE to run out of deep -sky objects to 

observe? Probably not. Not given the thousands of galax- 
ies, nebulae, and clusters visible to the eye in modest 
telescopes and the tens of thousands more that can be cap- 
tured with a camera. But three years ago I thought I had. 
I had tracked down the brighter objects, the Messiers, 
when I was a novice astronomer, and had moved on to 
more exotic quarry. I had seen everything from dim 
galaxy groups to forgotten planetary nebulae to seldom- 

A RARE NEBULA NCC 1491 in Perseus is one of the few emis- 
sion nebulae in the Herschel Catalog. It is also one of the most 
spectacular Herschel objects, both visually and photographically. 

observed star clusters. Was I done? At a star party a few 
years ago I thought I was. I wanted to see something new, 
and didn't know what that could be. 

Then I remembered the Herschel Catalog, the approxi- 
mately 2,500 objects discovered by William Herschel 

60 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

5 T J**^ 


# / tB 11 

, ^*to^35wg 



Noted book author 
and observer Rod 
Mollise of Mobile, 
Alabama, poses 
with one of the two 
workhorse telescopes 
he used to complete 
the Herschel Project: 
a Celestron 8-inch 

and his sister Caroline in the 18th century. The Herschel 
objects went on to form the core of the NGC list of objects 
visible from the Northern Hemisphere. I had seen some 
of them, 400 of the best and brightest, the Herschel 400, 
culled from the 2,500 by members of Florida's Ancient 
City Astronomy Club. But that left a lot of Herschels. 
What if I took on the whole big thing? 

Observing that many faint and reputedly difficult 
objects sounded scary, but maybe that's what I needed. 
Like Julie Powell, who set out to cook all of Julia Child's 
recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, maybe I 
was ready for a life-changing challenge. That night at the 
star party I resolved to take on the Herschels, all of them, 
and dubbed my quest, which I would document in my 
blog, "The Herschel Project." 

The Challenge 

Unlike Ms. Powell, whose Julie-Julia Project had a time 
limit of one year, I decided not to set a date for crossing 
the finish line. Our weather in the Deep South made that 
a fool's errand. I'd observe all the Herschels, re-observing 
the Herschel 400, and I would not dilly-dally. But I would 
take as much time as I needed. 

How tough are the 2,500? There are more galaxies 
than anything else, and the faintest one, NGC 2843, has 
the frighteningly faint magnitude value of 16.3. The good 
news is that the dim galaxies are almost all small — NGC 
2843 is less than 1' across — and have sufficient surface 
brightness to show up in surprisingly small apertures. 
Also, I found that many of the galaxies look brighter, 
sometimes appreciably brighter, than their assigned mag- 
nitudes (depending on the source). 

I used my 12-inch f/5 Dobsonian reflector for most 
of the visual observing, but I had little problem seeing 
13th-magnitude and even fainter galaxies with my 8-inch 
Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope under good skies. There's 
no doubt, however, that at least 12 inches of aperture 
makes the 2,500 easier, and under light-polluted skies 
even that is not enough. 

I had to conduct much of The Herschel Project 
from my astronomy club's substantially light-polluted 

observing site. On poorer evenings, I often used a long- 
exposure Mallincam Xtreme deep-sky video camera on 
the SCT. The camera routinely captured 16th-magnitude 
background galaxies in near real time, and Herschel 
objects were trivially easy. Seeing the images of faint 
fuzzies on the video monitor made it easier to see the 
dimmest Herschel objects visually in the eyepiece. 

There's a certain nobility to finding objects the old- 
fashioned way, by star hopping, matching patterns in the 
telescope's finder to what's shown on a chart. But that's 
not the way I attacked the Herschels. I was pretty certain 
I wouldn't live long enough to complete The Project if I 
did it that way, and I was more interested in seeing than 
finding. My Dob was equipped with digital setting circles 
and my SCT was sitting on a computerized Go To mount. 

In addition to my computerized telescopes, one other 
tool proved vital to the success of The Herschel Project: 
an "observing planner" program called SkyTools 3 that I 
reviewed in the April 2010 issue. It enabled me to easily 
generate a list of all 2,500 objects, find and remove nonex- 
istent ones (more than 100), tick off objects as I observed 
them, and record detailed log entries. SkyTools kept me 
well organized, vital for a project of this magnitude. 

Getting Started 

Late summer is a good time to get started on the Her- 
schels because it offers a wonderful selection of objects of 
all types. The summer constellations are hanging in and 
autumn's star patterns are on the rise. We'll jump all over 
the sky, but completing The Project was a different expe- 
rience. There are so many targets in some constellations, 
especially in spring, that I spent many evenings in one 
small area. I don't have space in this article to describe 
every object in the catalog, but here are some highlights. 

PLANETARY IN AQUILA Planetary nebula NGC 6804 is about 
4,200 light-years away. Though discovered by William Herschel in 
the late 1700s, it was not identified as a planetary until 1917. August 2012 61 

Deep-Sky Observing Odyssey 

Aquila is a curious constellation. The Eagle wings 
along the summer Milky Way, so you'd think he'd be 
loaded with deep-sky objects. Surprisingly, he only has 
a few worthy of notice, including a mere 10 Herschels. 
When I first spotted 12.4-magnitude NCC 6804, it 
actually looked more like a faint galaxy than a planetary 
nebula. A bit of staring at it in my 12-inch telescope, 
though, and it took on a more planetary-like appearance. 
It's an attractive gray ball 1.1' in diameter with a fairly dim 
central star of magnitude 14.4. 

NCC 6946 is in Cygnus, but it really ought to be in 
Cepheus. It's located in "The Chimney," an odd area of 
Cygnus that protrudes into the neighboring constella- 
tion. No matter where it's located, it's a beautiful face -on 
SABc spiral galaxy. In my Dobsonian under dark skies, its 
pinwheel-like arms were surprisingly visible. At magni- 
tude 9.8 and 10.5' across its longest dimension, this galaxy 
is not so large that its light is dimmed tremendously, but 
it's big enough to give up considerable detail. 

What makes NGC 6946 a true standout among the 
many Herschel galaxies is the presence of an open star 
cluster, NGC 6939, only 40' to the northwest. In a wide- 
field eyepiece, both the cluster and galaxy are in the same 
field, which is an unforgettable sight. The 10'- diameter 
NGC 6939 shines with a combined magnitude of 10.1 and 

CEPHEUS CLUSTER NCC 7762 is one of the most visually 
satisfying open clusters in the Herschel Catalog. The cluster is 
nearly 2 billion years old and about 2,600 light-years from Earth. 

is well resolved in 8-inch and larger telescopes. It looked 
round to me at first, but after a while, its mix of blue and 
gold suns seemed to arrange themselves into spiral pat- 
terns and it began to look like a strange "outline" of the 
nearby galaxy. 

— * * _■ ■■ — r 7 . — ' ■ "• — ^^ \ *. — ^^ — r r — " \ \ . — TT ^ 

. r / •■■/,- ■• . '^- ',iv # ■; ' - • ■. .. ,^ - ,. ..,- r ■ < -.-'-..-:.•' , 

■ • , ■ 7 " . ■*.£* •.,,••' ..::/;-; .♦; : ; t %; . • . * ♦. .. : ■-: . :'./*•. - •■ % , \ .. , • ;. 

** ; ■ •'• '■: V.. ':;< :-.' ;J* :*..'. ~ •,-.• . .•*..' : v*/* .-. •" - • 

.■'•■* '« -. • ■ '..*•.. •• • . '. -• ..• - • ' '■ ; ■,;...■ •■'..■• ... 

... ■ •.•*•.' . .■ '.• ■ _*• • • .... . .. • .';■■ -t ■ ■ ■• 

■s..--. •■.'•■ ■•:••'•. . • . . . : •• * • '. ....•'.■,.,■■■ 

'.■ ■ ■ •■: •• • •*. , ; . • •• • &*: •• • •.' ■ v/.. - •:. • •'■ f 

••■■ >.■'-■■: '■: ■ •.■■.'■•■:..> >.-'V'.r < ••• • ..'-• '• :■. •• •-•*' 

• # ■'• ■•:- ■* : -*« : ; i" ^ -■.'. ; ■ ; -. / ;'""•■ . : • >*'i2 ' . i 

.... .*.— ,■.-■ f J .. v •* • •••.•■■ • ■'■■•■.*•'•. -.-*■*. 

I*:/" . ■ ...*■-, % , • . ! v -y '.,.'. 

. ♦ •. ■ * r * •■ ■ . * ■ " , .- ■ . ■ ■♦ ■ 1 '* -. ft * - .- • ** 

* f ••»... , ■ , ■ . *,. ft ^ " • *••-'- 

■ TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE ,NCC 6946 (lower right) is- p J ■*?♦, - .• # . ; * 

t a face-on spjral.galaxy in Cygnus thaf" surrenders considerable \- "# ,'i "•*« * " \* *• -' ' .**«. * 

detail in large felescopes^ B^it wide-field eyepieces can also . .. * /• ■ r . '"•'■' 

.capture open cluster NGC 6939 (upper left) .Jn, the samfe view. *■ * * k % + * \ ; ■ • * / '„ • 

■."".;,.' * * • * '■ ' * *' ; " ■ t 1 

62 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

I don't think there's a single constellation that doesn't 
contain at least one Herschel galaxy, even cluster-heavy 
Cepheus. Given NGC 1184's fairly dim magnitude of 
13.0, 1 expected this Cepheus galaxy to be at least slightly 
challenging. But even in my C8 it was not. This 3.4' x 
0.8' edge-on lenticular was easy with direct vision. In the 
12-inch, I saw a small, bright central area and a razor-thin 
disk. Unlike many of the faint smudges I encountered in 
the Herschel 2,500, this one really looked like a galaxy. 

Most of the Herschel Catalog consists of galaxies, 
but there are quite a few open star clusters too, such as 
Cepheus's NGC 7762. Although the open clusters are 
usually fairly disappointing, this pretty one is an excep- 
tion. Approximately 15' in diameter, it consists of tiny stars 
arranged in a vaguely rectangular pattern. There's a promi- 
nent line of stars just off-center that caught my attention. 

The Brighter Herschels 

Herschel objects have a reputation for being dim and 
difficult, but that's not always the case. There are, in fact, 
16 Messiers among them. The Andromeda Galaxy isn't in 
there, but one of its satellites is, NGC 185, 7° to its north 
in Cassiopeia. At magnitude 10.1 and 11.7' x 10' in size, 
this dwarf- elliptical galaxy was attractive in the C8. An 
elongated center is surrounded by bright oval haze set in 

dimmer haze. A tiny, star-like nucleus was visible with 
the 12-inch. 

M31 is not a Herschel object, but I visited it to tick off 
NGC 206, the huge star cloud inside one of the gal- 
axy's spiral arms. I sometimes have trouble seeing this 
nebulous patch, but on a good night, especially one when 

OWL OR E.T.? NGC 457 in Cassiopeia is one of the brightest 
objects in the Herschel Catalog. Its dozens of bright stars form 
a figure that some visualize as an owl and others as E.T. August 2012 63 

Deep-Sky Observing Odyssey 

the seeing is steady, it stands out like a sore thumb 41' 
southwest of M31's center. 

If you want a spectacular Herschel open cluster, it 
doesn't get better than NGC 457, the renowned 5.1-mag- 
nitude E.T. (or Owl) Cluster (see photo on previous page). 
Its brightest star, Phi Cassiopeiae, forms one of the "eyes" 
of the stick-figure alien. NGC 457 was amazing visually, 
but it became more amazing when I turned the Mallin- 
cam on it. The camera began to pick up tiny and dim PGC 
galaxies winking into view among the cluster's stars. The 
more I worked the list and saw wondrous sights such as 
this, the better my perspective on the universe became. 
The distant stars of NGC 457 are mere next-door neigh- 
bors compared to the unimaginably distant PGC galaxies. 

A Deepening Appreciation 

Nebulae are few and far between in the Herschel Catalog. 
But there's a good one in Cassiopeia: NGC 7635, The 
Bubble Nebula — famous because of beautiful long- 
exposure images. I had a difficult time seeing the bubble 
shape formed by looping streamers, even in the 12-inch 
equipped with a nebula filter. Plenty of nebulosity was 
on display in a wide-field 13-mm eyepiece, but mostly the 
impression was "haze around an 8th-magnitude star." 

Herschel galaxies range from the "barely there" to the 
"spectacular." NGC 7331, The Deer Lick Galaxy, is among 

COSMIC BUBBLE NGC 7635 in Cassiopeia is commonly known 
as the Bubble Nebula. A hot but aging star in the center sculpts 
the 10-light-year wide nebula with its fast and powerful wind. 

the latter. It was beautiful in my 8-inch, with a large, 
bright, and elongated middle and hints of a sweeping 
spiral arm. Why is it "The Deer Lick"? Because numerous 
small galaxies hover nearby, like deer clustered around 
the salt lick of big NGC 7331. My Dobsonian revealed two 

64 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 


To read more from Rod Mollise about 
his challenging Herschel Project, 

with fair ease in an 8-mm eyepiece, NCC 7337 and NCC 
7335. A third, NCC 7336, was at least suspected. 

As Pegasus sinks, Perseus rises; let's head to the other 
side of the sky for a taste of that hero's Herschels. NCC 
1624 is a passable small open cluster 1.9' across com- 
posed of 12 to 15 fairly prominent stars. But that's only 
half the story. A quick glance at it in the 12-inch showed 
it to be embedded in subtle but real nebulosity. Even 
without a filter, it was obvious that a cloud surrounds 
the cluster's handful of 12th-magnitude-range stars. The 
nebula was round and reminded me a little of the Cocoon 
Nebula in Cygnus (IC 5146). 

NGC 1605, our next Perseus target, is an open cluster, 
though it's not much of an open cluster. I'm including 
it because it's typical of many of the groups you will 
encounter as you travel the 2,500. In my 12-inch Dob 
at 200x, all I saw were five or six faint stars in a shape- 
less pattern. One slightly brighter red-orange star was 
visible 2' to the east of the cluster's center. Borderline 
objects such as this one gave me a greater appreciation for 
Herschel's achievement at seeing the faintest objects. It's 
amazing given the primitive nature of the telescopes and 
eyepieces that he was able to see things like this. 

Winter Objects 

We don't normally associate the winter constellations with 
galaxies, but they are there. Perseus is loaded with them, 
including NGC 1169, which is a standout. At magnitude 
12.3 it's not overly dim for a Herschel object, and it's large 
enough at 3.5' x 2.1' to be easy to spot. This Sb spiral has 
a slightly brighter center and an elongated disk. When 
I first put my eye to the eyepiece, my reaction was, "Oh 
my god, I've discovered a supernova!" Alas, my "super- 
nova" turned out to be a dim field star 
superposed on the galaxy. 


For more information about the Herschel Cat-alog 
and its 2,514 objects, visit 
xtra/similar/herschel.html. Canadian astronomer 
Lucian J. Kemble compiled the catalog, but British 
astronomer Richard Hook helped restore the list after 
some objects were lost. According to the website 
cited above, the Herschel Catalog is considered less 
reliable than the much smaller Messier Catalog in 
terms of duplications and other errors. 

MINI-COCOON NCC 1624 in Perseus is classified as an open 
cluster, but careful inspection also reveals a surrounding patch of 
nebulosity that's reminiscent of the Cocoon Nebula in Cygnus. 

Nobody would call NCC 1175 "prominent," but once 
you know what you're looking for in this galaxy-rich area 
of Perseus (a photograph helps) this near-14th-magnitude 
edge-on Sa galaxy is not overly difficult. It's strongly elon- 
gated, 1.9' x 0.5', with a stellar-like core that winked in and 
out in my Dobsonian at 200x. If nothing else, this galaxy 
provides a taste of what you'll face in many of the Herschel 
2,500 galaxy fields: little elongated wisps that don't jump 
out at you, but that won't defeat you either. 

Let's end this Herschel run on a high point with Per- 
seus's lovely NCC 1491, an exceptional emission nebula. 
It was easily visible in the 12-inch with both 8- and 13 -mm 
wide-field eyepieces, and I couldn't decide which pro- 
vided the better view. Lower power brings in more of the 
star-laden field, but a bit more magnification pulls out 
more nebulosity. It's a substantial cloud around, but not 
precisely centered on, a magnitude-11.1 star. Screwing a 
UHC-type nebula filter onto my eyepiece almost made 
this vaguely comma-shaped 5' x 10' patch spectacular. 

It took me several years to complete the Herschel 
Project. Did it change my life? I thought I knew the sky 
extremely well, but my odyssey at least gave me a better 
idea of the treasures hidden in its out-of-the-way corners. 
I also developed a feeling of kinship with those legendary 
astronomers, William and Caroline Herschel. One cold 
night I had had enough and was ready to pack up the tele- 
scope. Then I heard a faint voice, a female voice it seemed: 
"Rod, you know it was so cold one night when Brother 
and I were observing that the ink in my inkwell froze as I 
was taking notes. Don't you think you'd better get back to 
the telescope?" And I did. You'd better believe I did. ♦ 

Check out S&T contributing editor Rod Mollise's blog at August 2012 65 

4? Vintage Telescope Project 



After decades of troubles, 
a priceless refractor 
lives anew. 



66 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

FRANK SEAGRAVE was born in I860 into a 
wealthy family in Providence, Rhode Island. At age 14 he 
witnessed the 1874 total eclipse of the Moon, and from 
that day forward he was fascinated by astronomy. Soon he 
was traveling twice a week to Harvard College Observa- 
tory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a round trip of 100 
miles, where the Harvard astronomers granted the eager 
youth access to the library and instruments. As a pres- 
ent for his 16th birthday, his father ordered a world-class 
refractor from Alvan Clark & Sons in Cambridgeport, 
Massachusetts, America's most esteemed telescope 
manufacturers. It cost $2,310.80, which in 2012 terms 
would be about $50,000. The firm delivered the finished 
telescope to Providence in 1878. 

The refractor was certainly advanced for its day. Its 
objective lens was an 8V4-inch (8-inch clear aperture) 
f/13.4 crown-and-flint doublet. The equatorial mount had 
a weight-driven clock drive that was precisely regulated 
by a spinning flyball governor. The working parts were 
primarily brass with some bronze and steel. It would have 
been a fine prize for the leading gentleman astronomers 
of 19th-century England, much less a youth in America. 

Seagrave put the telescope to good use. He was never a 
classically trained astronomer — his education stopped at 
private school — but he became an accomplished mathe- 
matician. In addition to many other observations, he used 
the telescope to measure positions of asteroids and comets 
to determine their orbits. His computation of the orbit of 
Comet Halley, and his prediction of the time and place of 
its reappearance two years ahead of its return in 1910, put 
him on the astronomical map. He submitted many of his 
orbit computations to Edward C. Pickering, director of the 
Harvard College Observatory, and in 1912 Pickering put 
him in charge of observing variable stars with Harvard's 
15 -inch refractor. 

Seagrave originally built an observatory for his tele- 
scope in his backyard at 119 Benefit Street near the center 
of Providence. As light pollution grew worse, in 1914 he 
purchased land in North Scituate 10 miles west of the city 
and there built a tall brick observatory with a rotating tur- 
ret. This unique building has now housed the refractor for 
nearly a century. But its time there was not always happy. 

Decades of Decline 

Seagrave died in 1934, and in 1936 the observatory and 
telescope were sold to a newly formed astronomical soci- 
ety, the Skyscrapers. In subsequent years the telescope 
underwent many modifications, some good, others not. 
The weight- driven clock drive had been built before 
the age of electricity. Society members replaced its right- 
ascension slow-motion system with an electric drive, 

OVERHAUL Chief restorers Allen Hall (far left) and Richard 
Parker (top) reattach the Seagrave refractor tube to its mounting 
with the help of Stephen Siok. 

which ultimately damaged the mechanism due to the 
lack of a clutch to relieve stress when the motor forced it 
against a limit. This damage compromised the telescope's 
ability to track the sky accurately. 

When initially delivered, the refractor's steel tube 
was painted light green. Various people repainted the 
tube several times. Between 1936 and 1966 someone 
removed the system for lifting the drive weights by hand 
and installed an electric lift system in its place. Then the 
entire weight- driven system and the bronze right-ascen- 
sion wheel were replaced with an electric Mathis gear 
assembly in an attempt to make the telescope suitable for 
astrophotography. The original flyball governor was put 
on display in the observatory's anteroom. 

In 1974 a burglar broke into the observatory and took 
the flyball governor. It was later found smashed on a rock 
behind the observatory, rendered useless. Other original 
drive parts were put in storage, and some were misplaced. August 2012 67 

Vintage Telescope Project 

By 2003 the telescope and its drive had deteriorated to a 
point that if it were to continue as a viable instrument, 
something had to be done. 

A Slow Rebirth 

Allen Hall's earliest astronomical memory is of the day 
when, as a young teenager, his father took him to Seagrave 
Observatory to observe through the Clark. Hall remembers 
ascending the stairs to the observing room, seeing the 
whirring ffyball governor, and hearing the click of the wire 
speed-reducing coupling. That night he observed Jupiter, 
and the memories shaped the rest of his life. 

Hall went on to become a mechanical engineer and 
an accomplished machinist. Decades later, in 1999, 
he returned to the area, rejoined the Skyscrapers, and 
became concerned about the refractor's condition. In 2003 
the Skyscrapers trustees charged Hall with restoring 
the telescope not just to working order but to a state that 
would "evoke an emotional reaction, in not only our mem- 
bers but the general public as well, that would speak to 
the quality, craftsmanship and ingenuity of Alvan Clark." 

The first step was to remove key components, clean 
off the lacquer that had been applied in earlier restoration 
efforts, and restore missing components to the extent 
possible. Many stored parts were in poor condition. Hall 
cleaned and installed them along with a temporary elec- 
tric drive until he could restore the old weight drive and 
build a new flyball governor for it. 

Fabricating the governor was no small feat. All pat- 
terns and drawings from Alvan Clark & Sons had been 
lost. Hall searched his memory to recall how the governor 

looked, obtained what photos of it he could, and built a 
new one from scratch, being careful to use historically 
correct materials, primarily brass and steel. Along the 
way he enlisted the aid of another telescope-making 
legend, Richard Parker of Tolland, Connecticut. In 2009 
they installed the new governor and the old weight drive. 
These additions re-created the telescope's historical 
appearance while enabling it to track the sky. 

But problems remained. The telescope required about 
115 pounds (52 kg) of weights to drive it, far more than 
was originally needed. The original chain suspending the 
weights had been lost, and modern chains did not fit the 

The Skyscrapers 

In 1932 Professor Charles Smiley of Brown University, with a 
small group of amateurs, formed the Amateur Astronomical 
Society of Rhode Island, better known as The Skyscrapers. 
Today the society maintains, on its North Scituate grounds, 
not just the Seagrave Memorial Observatory with the restored 
Clark refractor, but also the 12-inch Patton Telescope (a New- 
tonian reflector built in the 1920s and pictured in Amateur 
Telescope Making, Book I) and modern, imaging-capable 12- 
and 16-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrains. These three scopes 
are housed in roll-off-roof observatories. The society runs 
telescope-making classes and conducts weekly observing ses- 
sions, weather permitting, to which the public is invited. 

Also on the grounds are a small museum and hall where 
the society holds its monthly meetings and, since 1952, its 
annual AstroAssembly. Taking place this year on September 
28th and 29th, AstroAssembly features daytime speakers, an 
equipment swap market, and an evening lecture and observ- 
ing session. Read more 

68 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

1878 sprocket well, resulting in binding and sudden loads. 
Missing were the original built-in magnifying glasses for 
reading the telescope's right ascension and declination 
circles. In July 2009 the Skyscrapers board called upon 
Hall's services again, asking now for a total restoration. 

Hall and Parker dismantled the telescope and split 
it between their home workshops. Determined not to 
let engineering information be lost yet again for future 
generations, they cataloged, measured, and documented 
every part in a computer-aided design (CAD) program. 
The disassembled parts were then carefully cleaned by 
Hall and others, including Richard Parker, Stephen Siok, 

For more photos and info: 

David Heustis, Robert Horton, James Hendrickson, 
Steven Hubbard, and the author. All metal parts were 
carefully bathed in lacquer thinner, scraped of remaining 
grime, polished with brass polish, and buffed as needed. 

Brass and bronze are soft metals. After 132 years the 
parts showed considerable wear, corrosion, grime, dents, 
and in some cases, fatigue fractures. Some screws were 
damaged, a problem because when the telescope was 
built, thread standardization was still a work in progress. 
Two screws were remanufactured with custom threads. 

To prevent further oxidation, brass parts were lac- 
quered. Steel parts were repainted. In early September 
2010 the telescope was finally ready for reassembly. Mean- 
while in North Scituate, James Brenek was busy restoring 
the observatory's tile floor and building a wooden table to 
go next to the telescope for charts and drawing materials. 

The telescope was carefully reassembled at the 
observatory over two weekends and one weeknight — in 
time to be placed into service at the Skyscraper's' annual 
AstroAssembly on October 2, 2010. The first object the 
restored telescope looked upon was Venus as a thin cres- 
cent near the Sun in the daytime. The refurbished weight 
drive mechanism, calibrated using a strobe light, tracked 
perfectly on Venus all day until it set below the tree line. 

All members hailed the project as a success. This ven- 
erable instrument, now restored to its original condition 
as delivered by the Clarks in 1878, will continue to bring 
pride and great views to all Skyscrapers and guests. + 

Francis J. O'Reilly is president of the Astronomical Society of 
Greater Hartford, past president of the Westchester Amateur 
Astronomers, and a member of the Springfield Telescope 
Makers. He runs public star parties in the New York area. August 2012 69 

Gary Seronik 
Telescope Workshop 

Five Performance Killers 

Does your Dob disappoint? The solution could be a few simple tweaks. 

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. The more you know 

about your Newtonian reflector, the better equipped you'll 
be to achieve its peak performance. In my experience, a 
well-made and well-adjusted reflector is capable of hold- 
ing its own against a premium apochromatic refractor — 
an instrument synonymous with optical perfection. Yet 
many reflectors fall short of this benchmark. 

Part of the reason is because this comparison is 
inherently unfair. Premium performance comes with a 
cost, and a $400 Dobsonian is unlikely to keep up with a 
$4,000 apo. But reflectors often fail to deliver their best 
performance needlessly. Based on years of experience 
building and using telescopes, here is my take on the five 
biggest reasons a reflector can fall short of perfection. 
They are listed in order of increasing importance. 

© Obstruction 

The impact of a Newtonian's central obstruction on the 
visibility of fine planetary detail is a hot-button topic for 
internet forums. Despite the intensity of this debate, 
obstruction effects are well understood and fairly simple 
to quantify. William Zmek summarized it beautifully 
in the July 1993 issue of this magazine. Zmek's rule 
of thumb states that subtracting the diameter of the 
obstruction from that of the primary mirror gives you the 
equivalent aperture of an unobstructed instrument when 
it comes to contrast resolution. 

In other words, an 8-inch reflector with a lV2-inch 
obstruction has the potential to resolve the same low-con- 
trast planetary detail as an unobstructed 6V2-inch scope. 
Furthermore, when the obstruction is less than 20% of 
the diameter of the main mirror, its effects become very 
difficult to see at all. Short of rebuilding your scope with 
a low-profile focuser and smaller secondary mirror, this is 
something you're mostly likely going to have to accept as 
inherent in a reflector's design. 

O Baffling 

I've seen Newtonians that are well baffled against stray 
light, and others that allow all kinds of unwanted illumi- 
nation to pollute the view. A Newtonian doesn't need an 
elaborate set of ring baffles such as those found in quality 
refractors, but you should make sure that the only light 
reaching your eyepiece is coming from your primary mir- 
ror. One easy way to confirm this is to put a collimation 
plug (simply a cap with a small hole drilled in its center) 
in the focuser, and have a look. If you can see the ground 
behind the primary mirror, or look past the top of the 
telescope tube, you have some work to do. 

O Optical Quality 

Optical quality certainly matters, but these days it's usu- 
ally not the problem if a Newtonian seems to be under- 
performing. Most of the commercial mirrors I've evalu- 
ated in the last decade have been pretty good — a few 
have even been outstanding. Still, if you can rule out all 
other causes, the quality of your scope's primary mirror 
might be suspect. Fortunately, a simple star test can help 
you figure out if this is the case. The best how-to guide 

JO August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

on the subject remains Harold Richard 
Suiter's excellent book, Star Testing Astro- 
nomical Telescopes (Willmann-Bell). 

© Thermal Management 

This is near the top of my list for two rea- 
sons. First, a warm telescope mirror can 
significantly harm image quality — espe- 
cially at medium and high magnifications. 
Second, the problem is often misdiag- 
nosed as bad atmospheric seeing, and as 
such, it's simply ignored. If your scope 
has a good mirror, adequate baffling, 
is properly collimated, and still doesn't 
deliver good planetary views, there's 
a good chance the problem is thermal 
management. I covered this topic in this 
year's May's issue, page 70, and the bottom 
line is that installing a fan behind the 
primary mirror can do wonders. Unlike a 
central obstruction, thermal problems are 
not inherent in a Newtonian — there's no 
reason to live with them. 

O Collimation 

This is the biggie. Poorly collimated 
optics can make a quality mirror look 
downright bad. But there's good news — 
misaligned optics can easily be remedied. 
All reflector owners should know how to 
collimate their telescopes. Being unable 
to do it is like owning a guitar without 
understanding how to tune it. Learn basic 
collimation, and check your scope's opti- 
cal alignment regularly. An inexpensive 
collimation plug is the only tool you really 
need. I'll cover the topic of collimation in 
an upcoming issue. 

No telescope is perfect — every instru- 
ment has its shortcomings, some of which 
are simply part of the design, while others 
arise from how the design is implemented. 
But there's a difference between "perfect" 
and "useful." Although we should do what 
we can to make sure our scopes are run- 
ning well, don't get so obsessed with abso- 
lute perfection that you never take the time 
to enjoy the wonders that even an imperfect 
scope can show you. + 

Contributing editor Gary Seronik scans the 
skies above his Victoria, B.C. home with a 
well-behaved fleet of home-built reflectors. 
He can be contacted through his website, 


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® Liftoff Photography 


With a little foresight, 
capturing that Kodak moment 
of liftoff is easy and rewarding. 


Christopher Hetlage 

Whether it's the joy of watch- 
ing your kids igniting a 
model rocket in the backyard 
or the majesty of a giant 
missile heading into space, 
everyone gets a thrill count- 
ing down the final seconds 
and waiting for liftoff. And 
for the latter, once the main 
engines fire, you experience 
the power of that magnifi- 
cent machine as a pounding 
in the chest that's unlike 
anything else. 

Although NASA's Space 
Shuttle program came to an 
end in 2011, there are still 
plenty of satellites and space 
probes launched each month 
into Earth orbit and beyond. 
Photographing a rocket 
blasting off toward space is 
just as exciting as pulling off 
a great astrophoto. 

72 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

Planning Ahead 

Photographing most rocket launches is relatively straight- 
forward, but there are a few nuances you should keep in 
mind in order to achieve the best results. 

Launches are scheduled well in advance, but many 
things can delay liftoff by hours or even days. If you plan 
a trip to shoot a launch, ideally you should add at least a 
week after the scheduled date to accommodate inclement 
weather and other unanticipated scrubs. Several websites 
that keep tabs on most launches around the globe, but my 
favorite is It lists the locations, 
dates, and times of most rocket launches. 

Shooting a launch isn't like taking other types of 
daytime photographs. Although autofocus and auto- 
exposure settings work well for most daytime shots, the 
intense brightness of rocket ignition can play tricks with 
autofocus and auto -exposure systems when you're using 
telephoto lenses. You don't want to miss a shot while your 
camera is hunting aimlessly for focus. Set your camera 
to full manual mode and find the focus position before 
launch. Once focus is established, use a piece of tape on 
the lens to ensure you don't knock the focus ring as you 

It takes planning 
and ingenuity to 
take eye-popping 
close-ups of a 
launch like this 
shot by Hap Griffin 
of NASA's Mars 
rover Curiosity. 
Left: The author's 
friend Rich Simons 
uses a long tele- 
photo lens and a 
gimbal tripod head 
to enable smooth 
tracking of a fast- 
moving rocket. All 
photos are cour- 
tesy of the author 
unless otherwise 

Liftoff Photography 

Often the best close-up shots are recorded using remote plat- 
forms designed to protect the cameras from the elements. 

move your camera to follow the rocket's flight. 

Your viewing location will also determine what lens 
to use. When photographing a launch from miles away, 
look for landmarks, buildings, or groups of people in your 
surroundings that can enhance a composition. A tiny, lone 
plume in the distance doesn't make an interesting picture. 

Heat radiating from the ground between you and the 
launch pad will blur and distort close-up shots made with 
long telephoto lenses, much like how poor seeing can play 
havoc in astrophotography. You don't need a real tight 
shot of the rocket itself — many dramatic launch photos 
incorporate the massive exhaust plumes into the scene. 

If you're photographing a day launch, I suggest a lens 
of at least 300-mm focal length and an exposure of Vi,ooo 
at f/8, and ISO 100. I use these settings for most of my 
launch shots if it's a cloudless, sunny day. On overcast 
days you may have to use longer exposures and higher ISO 
speeds. If you're using a long-focal-length telephoto lens, 
you'll need a tripod to take sharp pictures. If you're using 
large, heavy lenses, a gimbal tripod head works very well 
as you track the rocket rising into the sky. 

Night launches are a different event altogether. Start 
shooting the rocket on the pad just as its engines ignite. 
Once it takes off, you'll only see the illumination of the 
engines themselves. Exposures of V200 at f/8 and ISO 
200 should capture the rising craft, because the rocket 
engines are quite bright. Another great technique is to 
take a time exposure of the entire launch using a wide- 
angle or fisheye lens. 

Avoid using high-speed burst or continuous shooting 
settings; the typical digital camera has a limited memory 
buffer that can hold only a few frames. Once the camera's 
buffer is full, you'll have to wait for the camera to write 
the images to its memory card before it can take another 
shot. To avoid missing any opportunities, take a shot every 
second or so. A programmable intervalometer can make 
this process easier, particularly with remote cameras. 

Remote Shooting 

If you have the opportunity to place a remote camera 
close to the launch pad, you'll have a few more things to 
consider. You'll need to protect your camera from the ele- 
ments and have some method for triggering the shutter at 
the crucial moments of launch. 

Protecting your equipment from rain, wind, and 
possibly chemical exposure from the rocket exhaust is an 
essential function of a remote platform. Because NASA 
doesn't allow access close to the launch pad within a day or 
two of the scheduled launch, your camera may sit for days 
unattended, and you can't simply run out there to cover 
up your equipment in a rainstorm. Some photographers 
construct a small box to house the camera. Others simply 
wrap their cameras in plastic trash bags, leaving just the 
front of the lens exposed. To further protect my lenses, 
I find that a plastic cup works well as a makeshift rain 

74 August 2012 SKY & TELESCOPE 

shield. It's also important to secure your tripod firmly to 
the ground. The last thing you want is to return to your 
camera and see that it was blown over before the launch. 
Tent stakes and zip ties work well for securing your tripod 
on soil, whereas sandbags are helpful on hard surfaces. 

Finally, you'll need some way to trigger your exposures 
at launch time. When I attended the final Shuttle launch 
in July 2011, 1 placed eight cameras around the pad, some 
as close as 50 yards from the shuttle itself! For each 
camera I used a sound trigger that is activated by the roar 
of the rocket's main engine, and that continuously fired 
as long as there was adequate noise. 

Location, Location, Location 

There are several major launch facilities in the United 
States, though the three primary sites used by NASA are 
the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, Vandenberg 
Air Force Base in California, and the Goddard Space 
Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Each 
facility has public viewing locations, though KSC is by far 
the best for photography. Your photos will only be as good 
as your camera's location, so spend some time scouting 
your area. Here are some of the best spots to shoot from 
around KSC. 

The closest you can physically be to launch pad 39A 
is the VIP site, three miles away. This is by far the best 
place to watch a launch. Access to the VIP and the Press 
sites are through special invitation only. The VIP site is 
typically reserved to contractors, family members, and 
congressional representatives. But you can contact your 
congressman to request a VIP pass because they receive 
tickets to every launch. You can also try to arrange to shoot 
the event for a newspaper, magazine, or website. Working 
with a media company can help you obtain a press pass, 

Many excellent 
launch photos 
incorporate the 
crowd of onlook- 
ers and various 

which often comes with a tour of the launch facility. 

Historically, the best location near KSC for the general 
public to watch a launch is the NASA causeway that runs 
between Titusville and Cocoa Beach, roughly seven miles 
from launch pad 39A. Back in the days of the Apollo 
program, tens of thousands of people would line the 
causeway. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, access to this 
site has been restricted, so you must either enter with an 
official NASA employee or purchase tickets ahead of time 
from the KSC Visitor Center. Although the Visitor Center 
itself is located slightly more than seven miles from Pad 
39A, the view from there is blocked by trees and is thus 
not a good place to shoot a launch. 

Outside of NASA property, the next closest place to 
view a launch is Titusville, located directly across the 
Indian River from KSC. It can be a very dramatic place to 
photograph a launch. From here you have a direct view of 
the space center across the water. 

If you prepare well in advance and have a thorough 
game plan, then you'll come away from the launch with 
plenty of excellent photos. Try not to spend all your time 
photographing the launch — watching it is a huge thrill, 
but if you're looking through a camera's viewfinder the 
entire time, you'll miss out on much of the experience. 
Don't forget to take some time to look up and just enjoy 
the moment! + 

Chris Hetlage is a seasoned rocket-launch enthusiast. 
See more of his images at August 2012 75 

Sean Walker 



Kfir Simon 

Rarely imaged, Barnard 35 in 
Orion presents astrophotographers 
with a subtle mix of reddish hydro- 
gen nebulosity and yellowish dust. 
Details: Boren-Simon 10-inch f/2.8 
PowerNewt Astrograph with SBIG 
ST-8300M CCD camera. Total expo- 
sure was 109 minutes through Baader 
Planetarium color filters. 

for more of our readers 
astrophotos online. 


This high-resolution view of the 
crater Clavius reveals tiny craterlets 
as small as 1 kilometer across. 
Details: 18-inch Starmaster Dohsonian 
telescope with a Lumenera Infinity 
2-2M video camera. Stack of hundreds 
of frames recorded through a True 
Technology red filter. 

76 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

ASUNSET eclipse at the vla 

Johnny Home 

Several eclipse chasers traveled to the Jansky Very 

Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico to view the 

May 20th annular eclipse. Only a few came away with 

a shot as stunning as this. 

Details: Nikon D300 DSLR with 80-200 mm zoom lens. 

High- dynamic-range composite of 9 exposures ranging 

from V60 to Vsooo second. 


Jim Lafferty 

The ring of fire appearance of the annular eclipse is 

greatly enhanced in this image captured through a 

solar hydrogen-alpha telescope. 

Details: hunt Solar Systems LSIOOT/Ha solar telescope 

with an Imaging Source DMK 41AU02.AS video camera. 

Stack of multiple frames. August 2012 yy 

78 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 


Phil Hart 

Shimmering bands of the aurora borealis over 

Tombstone Park in Canada's Yukon territory 

compete with Venus and Jupiter (at left) for the 

camera's focus. 

Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera with 

24-mm lens atf/1.4. Five-frame panorama, each frame 

exposed for 8 seconds at ISO 800. 


John A. Davis 

Thick tendrils of interstellar dust permeate 

this region of Cepheus, punctuated by three bluish 

reflection nebulae from the bottom left to top: 

vdB 152, vdB 149, and vdB 150. 

Details: Takahashi FSQ-106EDXwith SBIG 

STL-11000M CCD camera. Total exposure was SVa 

hours through Baader Planetarium color filters. 


Anthony Ayiomamitis 

The closest full Moon of 2012 rises over the ancient 
ruins of the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion, Greece. 
Details: Takahashi FSQ-106Nwith Canon EOS 5D 
Mark I DSLR camera. Single exposure ofVioo second 
at ISO 200. ♦ 

Gallery showcases the finest astronomical images submitted 
to us by our readers. Send your very best shots to gallery® We pay $50 for each published photo. 

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82 AugUSt2012 SKY &. TELESCOPE 


The Most Complete 

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Authorized dealer: Vixen, Orion, Celestron, Meade, 

Tele Vue, Fujinon, Adlerblick, Home-Dome 

Books, Charts, Software, 

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Free instruction at night with every telescope purchase. 

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17390 Preston Rd. #370 

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Dallas, TX 75252 (972) 248-1450 


Classified ads are for the sale and purchase of 
noncommercial merchandise, unique items, or job 
offers. The rate is $1 .50 per word; minimum charge 
of $24; payment must accompany order. Closing 
date is 15th of third month before publication date. 
Send to: Ad Dept., Sky & Telescope, 90 Sherman 
Street, Cambridge, MA 02140. 

FOR SALE: Remote single-story custom 
home, 2000 sq.ft. 4BR 3BA, 5 car garage, 
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Galaxy". Visit or Buy: New home and 7-year 
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needs to sell and move on for family reasons. 4m 
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Advertise in the Marketplace! 


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PHONE: 617.758.0253 

EMI Inside This Issue 


Celestron (Page 7, 11, 15) 

Meade (Pages 5, 88) 

800-919-4047 1949-451-1450 


Apogee (Page 3) 

Celestron (Page 7, 11, 15) 

FLI (Page 17) 

Meade (Pages 5, 88) 

800-919-4047 1949-451-1450 


Astro-Tech (Page 59) 

Brandon (Page 81) 

Celestron (Page 7, 11, 15) 

Explore Scientific - Bresser (Page 19) 

Meade (Pages 5, 88) 

800-919-4047 | 949-451-1450 

Pro Optic (Page 19) 

Tele Vue (Page 2) 

TMB Optical (Page 71) 
800-422-7876 I 405-364-0858 


Astrodon (Page 80) 

Celestron (Page 7, 11, 15) 

FLI (Page 17) 

Meade (Pages 5, 88) 

800-919-4047 | 949-451-1450 

Tele Vue (Page 2) 


FLI (Page 17) 


Celestron (Page 7, 11,15) 

iOptron (Page 17) 

Mathis Instruments (Page 82) 

Meade (Pages 5, 88) 

800-919-4047 | 949-451-1450 

Paramount (Page 83) 

PlaneWave Instruments (Page 82) 

Tele Vue (Page 2) 


Observa-Dome Laboratories (Page 59) 


Fisch Image Lab (Page 19) 

Software Bisque (Page 83) 


Astro-Tech (Page 71) 
800-422-7876 | 405-364-0858 

Celestron (Page 7, 11,15) 

Explore Scientific - Bresser (Page 19) 

iOptron (Page 17) 

Meade (Pages 5, 88) 

800-919-4047 | 949-451-1450 

PlaneWave Instruments (Page 82) 

Tele Vue (Page 2) 


Oceanside Photo & Telescope (Page 13, 59) Adorama (Page 1 9) 

800-483-6287 888-223-2500 

Woodland Hills (Page 10) 


Astronomies (Page 71) 
800-422-7876 I 405-364-0858 

To advertise on this page, 

please contact 

Lester Stockman at 

617-758-0253, or 

I Index to Advertisers 

Adorama 19 

Apogee Imaging Systems Inc 3 

Artemis CCD Ltd 13 

Ash Manufacturing Co., Inc 13 

Astrobooks 81 

Astro Haven Enterprises 82 

Astro-Physics, Inc 82 

Astrodon Imaging 80 

AstroDream Tech America 82 

Astronomies 71 

Bates College Museum of Art 81 

Bob's Knobs 80 

Camera Bug, Ltd 11 

Celestron 7, 11, 15 

CNC Parts Supply, Inc 80 

Explore Scientific - Bresser 19 

Finger Lakes Instrumentation, LLC 17 

Fishcamp Engineering 81 

Focus Scientific 11 

Foster Systems, LLC 80 

Glatter Instruments 80 

Hopkins Phoenix Observatory 81 

Hotech Corp 81 

Innovations Foresight 81 

InSight Cruises 19 

International Dark-Sky Association . . . .59, 82 

iOptron 17 

J Ml Telescopes 15 

Khan Scope Centre 11 

KW Telescope/ Perceptor 11 

Lunatico Astronomia 81 

Mathis Instruments 82 

Meade Instruments Corp 5, 88 

Metamorphosis Jewelry Design 81 

Oberwerk Corp 80 

Observa-Dome Laboratories 59 

Obsession Telescopes 71 

Oceanside Photo & Telescope 13, 59 

Optic Wave Laboratories 82 

Optical Data Associates, LLC 82 

Peterson Engineering Corp 80 

Pier-Tech 11 

PlaneWave Instruments 82 

PreciseParts 8 

Rainbow Optics 8 

Santa Barbara Instrument Group 1 

ScopeStuff 8 

Shelyak Instruments 8 

Sirius Observatories 82 

Sky & Telescope 37, 59 

Software Bisque 87 

Starizona 11 

Stellarvue 83 

Swinburne Univ. Of Technology 17 

Technical Innovations 82 

Tele Vue Optics, Inc 2 

Teleskop-Service Ransburg GmbH 80 

The Observatory, Inc 83 

The Teaching Company 9 

University Optics, Inc 80 

Willmann-Bell, Inc 81 

Woodland Hills Telescopes 10 

VERNONscope 81 



Meteor Showers 

With help from amateur astronomers, 
researchers have identified previously 
unknown meteor showers. 

Wild Weather 

From Martian dust devils to Saturnian 
lightning, it's not just Earth that 
experiences extreme weather events. 

Asteroid Up 
Close and 

NASA's Dawn mission 
is returning spectacular 
images and science from 
the asteroid Vesta. 

The Art of Collimation 

Learn how to precisely align your 
reflector's optics for maximum 

On newsstands July 31st! 


Find us on 
Facebook & Twitter 

Focal Point 

Mark Mathosian 

Host a Backyard Moon Party 

It's easy to give participants a night they will never forget. 

Are you aware that most people have 
never observed the Moon through a 
telescope? You don't have to be a Ph.D. 
astronomer to introduce people to our 
closest celestial neighbor. You just need a 
willingness to share your enthusiasm and 
your telescope. Moon party participants 
will never forget the first time they see 
the Moon up close and personal. Here are 
some simple guidelines to help you orga- 
nize and run a successful Moon party. 
• Determine which evening is best. 
Although weekends are always good, the 
Moon may not cooperate, so you must be 
flexible. Consider hosting your party when 
the Moon is out early, say 9:00 p.m. or so. 
This is not too late for most people, even 
if they must go to work or school the next 
morning. Choose a primary and alternate 
date, in case of poor weather. Though 
observing a full Moon sounds like a great 
idea to the novice, features along the 

terminator of a crescent or gibbous Moon 
look much better. 

• Select a night with other great targets. 

I recently hosted a Moon party when the 
Moon and Venus were near each other in 
the western sky and Mars and Saturn hov- 
ered in the east. It was the perfect night 
to observe the Moon and several planets. 
Although I had no doubt the Moon would 
be a hit, I also knew Saturn and its rings 
would be spectacular. As with the Moon, 
most participants said the only places 
they had ever seen Saturn were in books, 
magazines, or television. Mars and Venus 
were popular, but not nearly as much as 
the Moon and Saturn. 

• Publicize the Moon party. Create a 
one-page flyer (with a Moon photo) that 
identifies the date, time, and place. Pro- 
vide a phone number or e-mail address 
for people who have questions. Distribute 
copies of your flyer at appropriate locations 

Mark Mathosian (far left, holding an iPad) hosts a Moon party for his friends and neighbors. 

a few days before the party. Spread the 
word with phone calls, text messages, and 
social media. 

• Make your party educational. People 
tend to be overwhelmed when they view 
the Moon through a telescope for the first 
time; they don't fully comprehend what 
they see because they have never observed 
lunar craters, mountains, or maria in 
such detail. As host, educate them before 
they look through the eyepiece. With a 
little up-front knowledge, their time at 
the eyepiece will be much more reward- 
ing. For example, before a recent Moon 
party, I determined that two large craters 
— Atlas and Hercules — would stand out 
in the northernmost part of the waxing 
crescent Moon. Lunar maria including 
Tranquillitatis, Fecunditatis, Crisium, and 
Undarum would also be easy targets that 
night. I was prepared to discuss the sizes 
and ages of these features as people were 
viewing them through my telescope. 

• Identify lunar features. I bring my 
Apple iPad and run an informative 
astronomy app named Moon Atlas. It gen- 
erates a 3-D globe of the Moon that you 
can manipulate with your fingers. Before 
participants looked through the eyepiece, I 
held up the iPad and pointed out promi- 
nent lunar features. Sure enough, many 
observers spotted the craters and maria 
and received satisfaction in realizing that 
for the first time in their lives they had 
observed and recognized specific features 
on the Moon. That's an experience they'll 
always remember. + 

Freelance writer and photographer Mark 
Mathosian ( resides 
in Boca Raton, Florida. His hohhies include 
photographing the Moon and collecting 

86 August 2012 SKY &, TELESCOPE 

The Paramount MX goes 
wherever astronomy takes you. 

Carries 14-inch (.35 m) class telescopes 
with all the accessories - 90 lb (40 kg) 
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Paramount ME-like homing, 
tracking, slewing and pointing 

GEM design can track and slew 
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At 50 lb, the MX is ideal 
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Rapid polar alignment using the 
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Flip a switch to engage, 
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( $9,000 ) 

Introducing the Paramount MX - Space to go. 


The Robotic Telescope Mount Engineered To Go Where You Go. 


Software Bisque, Inc. 912 Twelfth Street Golden, Colorado 80401 




Meade®'s LX200® revolutionized 20th century amateur astronomy by making the sky accessible to all. Now 

Meade's remarkable LX600 with StarLock technology will irrevocably alter 21st century amateur astronomy 

by bringing stunning astroimages to your backyard. The LX600 is a simple to operate, portable package that 

makes taking great astrophotos as easy as focusing your camera and opening the shutter. The collection 

of features and technology integrated into the LX600 is unavailable from any other manufacturer and 

cannot be duplicated by just attaching a set of add-ons to another scope. 

► StarLock The LX600 integrates a unique star tracking and object finding system into the 

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field of view. Once centered, the star tracking system communicates directly with the 

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► Alt/Az Mode In alt/az mode, the LX600 also makes for the best visual and short exposure 

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will put every target dead center in the eyepiece and track with arcsecond accuracy so you can 

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superb f/8 ACF optical system. 

► Portability While you can achieve remarkable visual and imaging results from a 
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For more information about the LX600 and Meade's complete line of 
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